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Police officer recovering after pursuit crash

A Monticello police officer is recovering from injuriessustained in an accident Tuesday night when his cruiser left theroad during pursuit of a suspect, said Police Chief DavidStanley.

Stanley said Shelby Smith, 51, sustained a broken left leg,injuries to his right ankle and foot and third degree burns to hisright ankle and foot after colliding with a tree at theintersection of Carmel and New Hope roads in a dangerous turn knownas Dipping Vat Curve.

Smith was freed from his burning patrol car and transported tothe intersection of Highways 27 and 184, where a helicopter landedto airlift him to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Stanlysaid.

“He’s fortunate to be alive,” Stanley said. “He came out ofsurgery [Wednesday] morning after about three and a halfhours.”

Stanley said the driver’s side collision with the tree caused afire to break out in the cruiser’s engine compartment, whicheventually burned through the collapsed dashboard and firewall,scorching Smith’s trapped right foot. Emergency responders wereable to free Smith before the flames advanced further, Stanleysaid.

“We had trouble locating where he was at,” Stanley said. “Hecouldn’t hardly talk when we got there, but he was actually able tomake a radio transmission saying he was on Carmel Road. All theofficers and firefighters went there immediately, and we locatedhim in a brief period of time.”

Stanley said Smith was in pursuit of a vehicle for a trafficviolation. He began his pursuit around 10:43 p.m., Stanley said,and radioed his accident at 10:45 p.m.

Little is known about the suspect’s vehicle, Stanley said,except it was a dark-colored, late model pickup truck, possiblywith an extended cab.

If apprehended, the suspects could face felony fleeing chargesas well as a traffic violation. Stanley said he is checking intothe possibility of charging the suspects with endangerment.

Anyone with information about the pickup or its occupants areurged to contact the Monticello Police Department at (601)587-7732.