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Utah sex suspect missing after chase, car plunge into river

PAUL DAVENPORTJune 1, 2019
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In this Friday, May 31, 2019 photo released by the Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire District shows an upside down vehicle in the Virgin River along Interstate 15 by bridge 7 near Littlefield, Ariz. Authorities say a Utah man sought in an alleged sex crime involving a juvenile is missing after his car went into a river in a northwestern Arizona gorge. Police in Hurricane, Utah, said in a statement that the man's car was spotted upside down after officers broke off a pursuit after the car entered Arizona. (Capt. Deborah Gates/Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire District Department via AP)
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In this Friday, May 31, 2019 photo released by the Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire District shows an upside down vehicle in the Virgin River along Interstate 15 by bridge 7 near Littlefield, Ariz. Authorities say a Utah man sought in an alleged sex crime involving a juvenile is missing after his car went into a river in a northwestern Arizona gorge. Police in Hurricane, Utah, said in a statement that the man's car was spotted upside down after officers broke off a pursuit after the car entered Arizona. (Capt. Deborah Gates/Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire District Department via AP)

A Utah man sought in an alleged sex crime involving a juvenile was missing Saturday after his car plunged into a river in a northwestern Arizona gorge a day earlier, authorities said.

Police in Hurricane, Utah, said in a statement that the man’s car was spotted upside down in the Virgin River along Interstate 15 after the car entered Arizona as Utah officers broke off a pursuit Friday.

The man’s identity was not made public.

A search of the car and the river didn’t locate the man and his fate wasn’t known, said Capt. Deborah Gates of the Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire District.

“He could have possibly survived but we did a really thorough search up and down the bank and in the water,” she said. “We didn’t see him.”

The car apparently went off I-15 between a guard rail and a mountainside, said Gates, the incident commander at the crash site.

“There was a gap here and it looks like he launched off that.” Gates said.

She estimated the drop into the river at 100 yards (91 meters).

The man’s wallet and shoes were found on a riverbank “and they were dry,” Gates said.

The man fled Friday morning before officers arrived at an unspecified location after a woman reported “a sex offense involving an adult male and a juvenile female,” the Hurricane Police Department statement said.

His vehicle was spotted several hours later by an officer with another agency, triggering the pursuit for several miles on I-15.

The pursuit reached speeds over 100 mph (161 kph) before officers broke it off near the state line, the statement said.

A helicopter later spotted the car in the river, barely visible with only one wheel initially above water, Gates said.

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