LAKEWAY, Texas (KXAN) — A deadly crash is under scrutiny after two people died following a pursuit from Travis County Sheriff’s deputies. Officials say officers chased 27-year-old Nicholas Stearns on Saturday after he ran a red light at Ranch Road 620 and 2222. He crashed head-on into another car near Murfin Road in Lakeway.
Cristina Rincon Mendoza, 26, from Midland, was killed when Stearns crashed into her. Juan Cortez, a 27-year-old from Midland riding in the car with Mendoza, was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge by helicopter. Authorities say he is currently on life support.
Stearns also died in the crash. The driver of a third car involved in the wreck, Mike Koleber, made it out alive.
“It’s definitely life-changing, definitely,” said Koleber.
He was driving north on Ranch Road 620 when Stearns’ car came speeding toward him.
“My street was just one more street up. I was going home to let my dog out. Out of nowhere, this blue car just came around the corner, it was like a missile. And I was like, ‘We’re going to get hit.'”
Koleber’s MINI Cooper was totaled, but he was able to walk away.
“I step out, and there was (Mendoza’s) Ford Mustang next to me, upside-down,” said Koleber,
Travis County Sheriff’s deputies say Stearns was driving erratically after running the red light, and deputies chased him on Ranch Road 620 for about five miles before he hit the Mustang head-on.
“I believe that [deputies] erred in the caution of … Here’s a driver, who was erratic, unpredictable, not knowing what he was going to do next,” said Koleber. “You’ve got to get rid of him, take him out of the road as quickly as you can.”
Koleber is nursing some minor injuries, but says he’s lucky to be alive.
“A little banged up; sore shoulder, collar bone from the safety belt,” said Koleber. “You just never know what can happen. You’ve got to look at every angle. So, hug whoever you have tonight. Hug them extra tight.”
Stearns is from Illinois and had lived in Austin about four months.