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Driver speeds through fatal crash investigation

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Posted at 10:21 PM, Dec 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-21 19:17:10-05

A Martin County man was arrested Sunday after officials said he drove through a traffic homicide investigation at excessive speeds, then rammed a sheriff's vehicle. 

Johnathan Eckerd, 25, said he recklessly sped through Martin Downs Boulevard, where troopers were investigating the fatal crash from earlier Sunday night.

Investigators said the truck Eckerd was blew past them at a high rate of speed, jumped the curb and went around a Martin County deputy, who was also working the crash scene.

The sheriff's office said Eckerd then took off southbound on Florida's Turnpike.

Multiple law enforcement officers attempted to slow him down, but Eckerd rammed a lieutenant's sport-utility vehicle twice. The lieutenant was eventually able to stop the truck, and Eckerd was arrested.

The lieutenant was not injured.

Eckerd has been charged with aggravated assault with a vehicle on a law enforcement officer and aggravated fleeing and eluding.

Earlier fatal crash

The homicide investigation at the scene was for a fatal crash earlier Sunday night that killed one person and injured another on SW Martin Downs Boulevard.

Around 6 p.m., troopers said a 2007 Mazda 6 with three people inside was heading east when the driver crossed the center line and hit a palm tree.

Investigators said one of the passengers was thrown from the vehicle and died, but the driver, identified as Mynor Abdulio Chavez-Lopez, kept driving for 5 miles before crashing into a driveway and another car on Southwest Riverway Boulevard.

Neighbor Susan Kolifrath says she'll never forget the sounds.

"First I heard screeching of tires and then I heard a couple of bangs, like a real loud bang," said Kolifrath. "It could have gone right into their living room."

The homeowners say they were sitting in the garage with their dog, when the car nearly pummeled through their home.

Chavez-Lopez, 26, of Stuart, faces charges of DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crash and no driver’s license involving a death. Troopers say Chavez-Lopez had a blood alcohol level of 0.196. That's more than twice the legal limit.

"The car looked like, I don't know how they could drive it anywhere," said Donna McGee, of Palm City.

Chavez-Lopez suffered minor injuries in the wreck. 

Chavez-Lopez remains in the Martin County Jail on $250,000 bond.

The name of the person killed in the crash has not been released.  Lopez's other passenger suffered minor injuries.

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