A motorcyclist led four police cruisers on a 12-mile, nearly 100-mph chase on Interstate 95 yesterday before the bike crashed on an exit ramp in Southeast Baltimore, hurling its driver and a passenger over a concrete barrier and onto a pickup truck 25 feet below.
Both men, who were wearing safety helmets, survived the impact but were being treated for serious injuries early today at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
The chase began about 3:15 p.m. in the White Marsh area of Baltimore County when state police Trooper John Wotton attempted to stop a southbound motorcycle for exceeding the 55-mph speed limit on the interstate, said Cpl. Nick Paros of the JFK barracks.
The motorcycle, which had been clocked at 71 mph, slowed and headed toward the road shoulder, but then suddenly accelerated, Corporal Paros said.
Trooper Wotton took up pursuit and called on his radio for help, Corporal Paros said.
At several points during the pursuit, the police alleged, the motorcyclist swerved in an apparent attempt to ram Trooper Wotton's cruiser. The trooper was able to evade the bike, police said.
Another state police cruiser, driven by Trooper Timothy Adams, and two Toll Facilities Police cruisers joined the chase as the motorcycle reached speeds nearing 100 mph, Corporal Paros said. The police cars maintained a comparable speed, he said.
As the motorcycle crossed the city line into Southeast Baltimore, the driver turned onto the exit ramp for O'Donnell Street and lost control of the bike on the curve, police said.
The motorcycle hit the ramp's jersey barrier, hurling both the driver and passenger over the side, police said. The motorcycle came to rest on the ramp.
Both victims landed in a pickup truck that was stopped waiting for a red light on O'Donnell Street, police said.
The man who police said was driving the motorcycle, Brian Coffman, 22, of Lansdowne, Pa., was in serious condition at Shock Trauma, while his passenger, James Cauley, 18, of Pennsauken, N.J., was in critical condition.
State police said Mr. Coffman was wanted on a theft charge in a Montgomery County warrant. He was charged with driving with a suspended license, fleeing and attempting to elude police, numerous other traffic offenses, and assault in trying to ram the officer's cruiser, police said.
Corporal Paros said "all regulations were followed" by the officers in the pursuit.
Although some Maryland police organizations have banned high-speed pursuit, state police have not, a spokesman said last night.
Guidelines say that troopers involved in the pursuit of a high-speed vehicle must make radio contact with a duty officer "who, after hearing the trooper's analysis of the situation, makes the final decision as to proceed or not to proceed," said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a state police spokesman.