POCATELLO — Rich “Brad” Friel said he feels lucky to be alive and he’s happy that the woman driver who got into a crash with his vehicle while she was trying to elude police was not seriously injured as well.
The accident happened Feb. 21 when Karla S. Devinney, driving a green 1998 Ford SUV east on Oak Street, ran through a red light at Oak Street and Yellowstone Avenue, and collided with Friel’s 1996 Toyota Camry traveling south on Yellowstone. The SUV rolled over and came to a rest near Pocatello Avenue.
“The police report says that I hit the rear of her car, that’s why it rolled,” Friel said. “But I didn’t even see her. It was very sudden.”
The incident and the prolonged investigation into the crash has temporarily altered Friel’s life and left him frustrated and in limbo.
“It really did change my life,” Friel said. “I’m even a little afraid to get back behind the wheel. I was on the interstate and the high speed kind of scares me now.”
Friel had a friend drive him to the hospital after the crash. He sustained a stage two concussion, two bulging disks in his back and a sprained rotator cuff in the crash.
“I feel like I’m lucky to be alive,” Friel said.
A vocational student at Idaho State University, the 23-year old Friel was enrolled in the diesel mechanics course. Following the crash, he had to take a medical withdrawal from school, and he’s unable to return to his job at Mama Inez where he worked bussing and washing dishes.
“They told me that they would hold my job for a few weeks and that if they had to replace me, I would be first in line when they hired again,” Friel said. “I tried to go to class Monday, but I couldn’t remember a lot of the stuff that I knew before the accident.”
His roommates are helping to cover his share of expenses until he can get back on his feet and back to work.
Pocatello Police, Bannock County sheriff’s deputies and the Idaho State Police responded to the scene of the crash, but the police chase was initiated by Chubbuck Police.
While the Idaho State Police released Devinney’s name last week, charges have still not been filed in the case.
Pocatello Police Lt. Ian Nelson said investigators are awaiting results of toxicology reports before filing charges.
Friel was not able to obtain an accident report until Monday night, more than two weeks after the crash. He has liability insurance on his car, which was totaled, and the police report lists Devinney’s insurance status as unknown.
Devinney was pursued by Chubbuck police after they recognized her vehicle at the Maverik convenience store in Chubbuck as one that had been involved in a hit-and-run accident in Pocatello earlier on Feb. 21.
Police also learned that the occupants of the vehicle were involved in the theft of two cases of beer from the convenience store prior to Chubbuck officers arriving on the scene. Budweiser beer cans were scattered along Oak Street after the SUV rolled.
Chubbuck officers pursued Devinney into Pocatello, but called off the pursuit out of concern for public safety. A Bannock County sheriff’s deputy continued following the SUV from a distance and was the first law enforcement officer on the scene about 28 seconds after the crash.
“I didn’t even see (Devinney),” Friel said. “I just heard this big bang and then everything went black. I don’t even remember the air bags going off.”
Friel had to kick his door open to exit the car and he said police were on the scene quickly. A motorist turning east onto Gould Street also stopped to help Friel. A passenger in Friel’s car was uninjured in the accident.
“I just think the police could have done more to stop (Devinney),” Friel said. “I mean, I know they have spike strips that could they could have used to stop her. There were lots of places where they could have put them out between Chubbuck and Oak Street.”
Law enforcement has not contacted Friel since the accident, but he’s called each agency multiple times trying to get insurance information and to find out if charges had been filed against the woman who put his life on hold.
Dustin Tendoy, Stormy Adakai and Damion Loneman were all passengers in Devinney’s SUV and were transported by ambulance to PMC along with Devinney, who was treated and released from the hospital the following day.
Devinney, 24, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving in 2013.
Friel must wear a back brace and a neck collar to allow his injuries to heal and he’s not sure how long he’ll be out of commission.
“They say I’m healing pretty fast,” Friel said.
Friel said he believes the woman who caused his injures and totaled his car should compensate him for his losses.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy that (Devinney) and her passengers got out alive,” Friel said. “But I think she should pay for my car and my medical costs. I think that’s reasonable and I think that’s right.”