A Moyie Springs man allegedly stole a truck from a business south of Bonners Ferry, led deputies on a high speed pursuit ending in a drive down a steep embankment into the Kootenai River. Mikael Merrifield, 25, is in jail, but no one yet knows where the pickup is.
At about 1:45 p.m. Thursday, dispatch received report of the theft of the rig, a 2011 Toyota Tacoma belonging to Preston Stockwell, last seen traveling south on Highway 95. Several deputies fanned out, and at about 2:30 p.m. a deputy spotted the vehicle on Cow Creek Road.
Instead of stopping, Merrifield is reported to have hit the gas, pulling several high-speed maneuvers to shake his pursuit, which left the road, followed the BNSF railroad track along the Kootenai River for more than a mile and stopping area train traffic before he made a final gambit to escape his pursuers and drove into the river.
The ill-thought plan did not have the results Merrifield expected.
As soon as the truck was in the water, the strong spring current carried it downriver at a brisk pace, prompting deputies to shift gears from a felony pursuit to a water rescue.
With deputies on the bank keeping track of Merrifield and the truck, others dashed to pick up Marine 1 at the Waterways Building. But as deputies watched, Merrifield left the truck and struck off swimming, reaching shore in an area covered with brush and trees where he was subsequently taken into custody.
He remains jailed on multiple charges in lieu of $35,000 bond.
After he jumped from the vehicle, it sank and has not been located. Efforts continue to find the vehicle and have it removed from the river. Local and State Emergency Management agencies were notified of the incident. No hazardous materials are known to have been released.