ORINDA -- A police chase that began Tuesday after a woman spotted her two stolen cars on a Moraga street ended with the driver of her pickup truck crushed to death after smashing into a power pole on Camino Pablo, authorities said.
The pursuit ended in the trees and brush by San Pablo Creek just north of Miner Road. The crash knocked out electricity to several hundred PG&E customers, forced a night-long closure of Camino Pablo and seized up traffic in the surrounding hills.
Several police agencies responded, beginning at 2:20 p.m. when the woman reported spotting both her Subaru and her Ford truck while she picked up her son at Miramonte High School, said Jimmy Lee, spokesman for the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.
She earlier had reported her Subaru stolen overnight Monday, but had not realized her truck was gone too, Lee said. Moraga and Orinda police responded, and an Orinda officer approached the pickup from behind on Moraga Way. The officer flashed lights and sirens, but lost sight of the pickup heading north on Camino Pablo. The officer soon came across the wreck, Lee said.
The severity of the crash left authorities unable to identify the dead person by late Tuesday.
"We cannot even determine gender at this point," Lee said. "I think it was a combination of things, including the force."
The pickup landed in the trees across San Pablo Creek from the 15th green of the Orinda Country Club and, on the other side, directly across Camino Pablo from a PG&E transmission tower. Police were unable to remove the body from the truck as utility crews worked around the wrecked pickup late Tuesday to erect a new pole and restore electricity. The outage, which occurred at 2:32 p.m., affected 377 customers, said J.D. Guidi, a PG&E spokesman. Power was expected to be restored for most late Tuesday night, and for the rest by 8 a.m. Wednesday, he said.
Several police agencies and the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office took part in an investigation late Tuesday under a countywide protocol for handling fatal incidents involving officers. The speed of the pursuit, which crossed under Highway 24, remained uncertain, Lee said.
Camino Pablo was expected to remain closed in both directions until late Tuesday night. Police redirected northbound traffic back to Highway 24 at El Toyonal and turned back southbound traffic at Camino Sobrante.
While the pickup was heading down Camino Pablo, police chased the Subaru west on Highway 24 but lost it, Lee said. Later, a Lafayette resident reported a strange vehicle in her driveway on Hidden Valley Road -- the stolen Subaru.
"The engine was running and the suspects were gone," Lee said.