Chain-reaction crash wrecks 3 police cars on I-66

WASHINGTON — Three people were hurt and three are facing charges stemming from a wreck that involved three empty police cruisers — an ordeal that started with a stolen car in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and ended in Northern Virginia early Wednesday.

State police said a chain-reaction crash happened around 1:30 a.m. on Interstate 66 near Route 28 in Centreville, Virginia.

A Ford Explorer struck a safety patrol vehicle, triggering subsequent crashes into three empty police cars parked along side the road, according to the Virginia State Police.

The impact sent one of the cruisers spinning across the westbound lanes of the interstate before it left the road and hit an embankment. The two other cruisers were also damaged.

The parked police cars were empty because the troopers were in the woods searching for two men who, during an earlier traffic stop, allegedly bailed out of a 2015 Hyundai that had been reported stolen out of Prince George’s County.

Troopers who were slogging through muddy, brush-filled woods off the highway found one of the occupants of the Hyundai — Josue Rodas, 21, of Hyattsville, Maryland. Rodas was charged with possession of marijuana, according to state police.

Around 5:20 a.m., police spotted the alleged driver of the Hyundai, Eulogio Hernandez, 19, of Hyattsville. Police claim he ran from troopers who saw him hitchhiking on I-66 near Stringfellow Road. The search for Hernandez led to a temporary closure of Stringfellow Road during the morning rush hour and involved police dogs and a helicopter.

The state police said Hernandez eventually was apprehended and charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, possession of stolen property, eluding police, presenting false identification to a law enforcement officer and not having a valid operator’s license.

He also still could face charges related to walking on the interstate. It’s illegal to be a pedestrian on a controlled access highway in Virginia, the state police said.

Police said the driver of the Ford Explorer involved in the chain-collision crash Lloyd J. Hawkins III, 36, of Centreville, Virginia, was charged with reckless driving.

Hawkins, his passenger and the safety patrol worker all were taken to the hospital. They were expected to survive their injuries.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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