Police seek driver who fled crash site

NEW PALESTINE — Investigators are seeking tips from the public to help find a man they said led officers on a car chase through rural Hancock County that ended with a crash in a New Palestine neighborhood and a five-hour manhunt for the driver who fled.

A neighbor called 911 Tuesday night after seeing a suspicious man lurking near homes in the 1300 block of County Road 300S in Greenfield. The man was described as white with a thin build, wearing a gray T-shirt, according to dispatch records.

When officers came to check the area, they found a man matching the suspect’s description driving a white van, police said. When an officer attempted to pull the vehicle over, the driver took off, leading police on a high-speed chase down the rural roadway for about five miles, police said.

The driver lost control of the van and crashed just east of County Road 600W near Wollenweber Road in New Palestine.

The van flipped several times before coming to rest in a cluster of trees. It was mangled and dented, but the driver managed to escape the wreckage and run from the scene, Hancock County Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Campbell said.

Officers from at least nine area police departments joined in the manhunt that followed the crash.

Police and K-9 officers searched backyards in the area, and a helicopter was used to scan the fields, investigators said. Curious neighbors were told to stay in their homes and lock their doors.

Police called off their search just after 11 p.m. when no one was found, according to dispatch records.

By Wednesday afternoon, no arrests had been made. A man who went into a church near the crash site and asked to the use the phone aroused suspicion Wednesday morning. He appeared to be injured and is considered a person of interest, but police said they could not prove he was involved. He was released from police custody after he denied being the driver.

Officers are using items found in the van to try to identify the driver, police said.

Campbell applauded the vigilance of a number of neighbors who called in tips Tuesday during the search. He said residents should never hesitate to contact police if they see something odd.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s department at 317-477-1147.

Make a report

Anyone with information about the crash Tuesday night near County Road 600W and Wollenweber Road in New Palestine is asked to call police at 317-477-1147.

The driver of the white van that crashed fled the scene and is wanted for questioning.

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.