Details emerge in police pursuit, fatal accident |

Details emerge in police pursuit, fatal accident

A Nevada City man who uses a motorized wheelchair was identified as the driver killed after he reportedly stole a taxi and led police on a chase Wednesday night.

The man, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was identified Thursday afternoon as Joseph Ivan McIlhenny, 64.

Nevada City Police officers initially responded to a call at about 7:15 p.m. from a person reporting that a man in a wheelchair was driving down the middle of the road at Broad and West Broad streets.

The man was gone when an officer arrived, according to dispatch reports.

At 7:53 p.m., a caller from the 300 block of Broad Street reported the man was making inappropriate comments and smelled like alcohol.

"He was possibly intoxicated," said Nevada City Police Sgt. Paul Rohde. "A cab was summoned for him."

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At some point, as the driver was loading the wheelchair into the taxi van, McIlhenny "managed to hop into the driver's seat and took off," Rohde said.

As he drove away, personal items came tumbling out of the van and hit a passerby, who complained of minor injuries, Rohde said.

A Nevada City Police officer tried to make a traffic stop of the taxi as it left the downtown area, but McIlhenny failed to stop, said California Highway Patrol Officer Greg Tassone.

A pursuit ensued from downtown Nevada City and eventually onto eastbound Highway 20. A second Nevada City Police officer was in a patrol vehicle positioned east of the pursuit near Nevada Street, with his emergency lights activated, waiting to assist.

As McIlhenny approached, he drove directly into the rear of the patrol vehicle, causing a collision and major vehicle damage, Tassone said.

Both the taxi and the patrol vehicle were disabled, with the taxi coming to rest sideways across the highway, blocking the lanes.

The officer was uninjured, Tassone said. Both officers exited their vehicles and approached the taxi, where they found McIlhenny unresponsive, according to Tassone. He had not been wearing a seatbelt.

The officers called for emergency medical personnel and began resuscitation efforts, and a helicopter air ambulance was also called to respond.

Emergency medical personnel arrived and continued resuscitation efforts.

However, they ultimately declared McIlhenny dead at the scene.

The CHP is handling the investigation. After a preliminary investigation, it appears alcohol and/or controlled substances were a factor.

Responding to the scene were the Nevada County Sheriff's Office, the Nevada City and Grass Valley police departments, the CHP, Nevada County Consolidated, Nevada City Fire and Sierra Nevada Ambulance.

Highway 20 was closed at Uren Street in both directions for approximately three hours.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4229.

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