Early-release inmate crashes following pursuit

Posted at 6:49 PM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-16 18:49:26-05

The Martin County Sheriff has identified the man accused of stealing a work van from Tequesta and leading law enforcement on a chase through Martin County Wednesday.

RELATED: More pictures from the scene

29-year-old Michael Kungis was flown to the hospital with critical injuries after crashing the van on I-95 near SW High Meadow Avenue.

Sheriff William Snyder says Kungis has a length criminal history, including 47 felony charges and 10 convictions since 2009.

If Kungis survives his injuries, Snyder says he will face charges of carjacking and assault from Tequesta Police, and fleeing and eluding law enforcement out of Martin County.

Snyder says Kungis stole a work van from Bill Gilbert Electric Inc. in Tequesta.

A BOLO went out to area law enforcement. Tequesta Police and the Florida Highway Patrol were among the agencies that followed Kungis into Martin County. Deputies there joined the chase.

Snyder says Kungis tried to hit a deputy. That deputy is then seen in dash video executing a pit maneuver to get Kungis off the road during the end of morning rush hour.

The van flipped several times, ejecting Kungis from the vehicle before it crashed and caught on fire.

Snyder says the van also clipped another SUV traveling southbound in the area, but that driver was not seriously hurt.

The deputy was shaken up, but also not seriously injured, according to Snyder. "This could have been a much worse tragedy, but I think by God's grace we really didn't have any civilians injured," Snyder said.

Employees at Bill Gilbert Electric say this happened right before two employees were getting ready to take the van on service calls.

"He got what he deserved the way I see it," said employee Bill Vanwagner.

Vanwagner says he and his work partner Dennis were outside. He says Dennis had just turned on the van, and walked away for just seconds. "I see [Dennis] speed up to go to the van. I hear him yell, 'Hey! What are you doing?’ "

Vanwagner says Dennis grabbed onto the door handle and was dragged several feet by Kungis as he sped off, suffering minor injuries.

"The guy just bolted right in from the passenger side, grabbed the van and wham! He was out of there," Vanwagner said.

He says the doors were still open, causing tools, ladders and debris to fall out of the truck.
Vanwagner ran inside to notify the owner, Bill Gilbert.

"He sort of yelled, 'someone is stealing the van!' I thought ‘no way.’ When I ran out and saw it happening, it's just crazy. You don't expect that stuff to happen in Tequesta. But, if it's happening here, it's happening everywhere," Gilbert said.

Now, those employees have the week off as Gilbert is tasked with replacing the van and damaged equipment.

Having the van out of service will also cost the company businesses, with a total loss of about $40,000.

"People don't realize when they do this, the kind of hurt they put on a small business," Gilbert said.