- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2021

MENIFEE, Calif. (AP) - Police are searching for a man they say drove a stolen pickup through a fence and onto a Southern California highway in the wrong direction, where he and a passenger leaped from the moving vehicle and allowed it to roll until it struck an oncoming van.

The driver of the van, a 55-year-old woman, was hospitalized with major injuries following the crash early Thursday on Interstate 215 in Riverside County, California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Lassig said.

“The driver had her seat belt on. That had a lot to do with saving her life,” Lassig told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The Dodge Ram pickup was initially pursued by Hemet police when the driver turned off the headlights, bounced over a dirt shoulder and crashed through a barb-wire fence and onto the freeway’s northbound lanes traveling south, Lassig said.

Police stopped pursuing and the driver slowed the pickup while he and the passenger bailed out. They ran across the northbound and southbound lanes and into a field, Lassig said.

The collision between the rolling pickup and the van scattered debris all over the highway east of Los Angeles, the newspaper said.

The passenger in the pickup was caught but police are still searching for the driver, Lassig said.

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