Crime

Motorcyclist leads half-hour chase reaching 145 mph on I-5 and Whatcom County roads

Watch how officers are trained for high speed chases

Kevin Butler with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy's police pursuit training class demonstrates how police officers train to drive when responding to a call or during a pursuit.
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Kevin Butler with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy's police pursuit training class demonstrates how police officers train to drive when responding to a call or during a pursuit.

A motorcycle rider led the Washington State Patrol and various Whatcom County law enforcement agencies on a half-hour chase early Tuesday, reaching speeds near 145 mph on Interstate 5 and on Bellingham and Ferndale city streets.

Troopers booked Hector Manuel Diaz-Cornellio, 27, into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of attempting to elude a police vehicle.

According to information provided to The Bellingham Herald by Trooper Heather Axtman, troopers first witnessed Diaz-Cornellio at 1:36 a.m. traveling northbound on Interstate 5 near Slater Road at an estimated 100-plus mph on a red 2006 Suzuki GSXR 600. They later reportedly clocked the bike’s speed at 130 mph, before Diaz-Cornellio sped up to 145 mph.

“Apparently, those bikes can really move,” Axtman told The Herald.

Diaz-Cornellio exited the freeway at Portal Way travelling at 90 mph, Axtman said. He reportedly ran a stop sign at Grandview Road and was seen travelling at speeds between 60 and 80 mph on Ferndale city streets.

Axtman said the bike reached a dead end, flipped a U-turn, turned off its headlamp and headed back toward I-5 at speeds approaching 100 mph at approximately 1:45 a.m.

“There was no traffic on the roads at any time up to this point,” Axtman said.

Diaz-Cornellio then reportedly got back on the freeway, this time heading south at speeds up to 135 mph. Axtman said he slowed to 115 mph by the Bakerview Road exit and exited at Northwest Avenue, and the chase slowed to as slow as 40 mph.

But speeds picked back up to as fast as 100 mph, Axtman said, as Diaz-Cornellio led law enforcement through the Meridian and Cordata neighborhoods, running stop signs and traffic lights and even pulling another U-turn.

When the chase looped back near Bellis Fair Mall, Axtman said a State Patrol supervisor instructed troopers to break off the pursuit.

“Every pursuit is a fluid situation, depending on the time of day and the traffic,” Axtman said. “You take that all into account and decide does the risk outweigh the potential benefit of continuing.”

As Diaz-Cornellio re-entered southbound I-5, troopers backed off and continued to follow, Axtman said. They saw him exit at Sunset Drive at approximately 2 a.m., and by 2:02 a.m. had him in custody near the intersection of Sunset and Ellis Street near the hospital after Diaz-Cornellio apparently stopped.

“Thankfully, we were able to remove his extremely unsafe driving behavior from the streets,” Axtman said.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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