EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KMOV) – A woman who was killed during an accident in East St. Louis had recently returned home from her honeymoon. The driver, who police say caused the accident, has been taken into custody.
On Wednesday morning, police say a man refused to pay his Metro bus fare at a stop in East St. Louis near 83rd and State streets. Officers responded to the scene to address the issue. They said the man was cooperative and didn't seem dangerous when they arrived.
Deputies were able to remove the suspect from the bus, but when they did, he ran to an East St. Louis cruiser near the rear of the bus and got into the driver seat. According to reports, once in the car, the suspect grabbed the radio and yelled "I need a drink" before speeding off.
Assistant Chief Ronald Ike says the officers are allowed to leave their cars running, but it must be secured.
"What I can say is that it's not against the law to leave your car running," he said. "He probably should have secured it though."
A few blocks away, the suspect crashed into two cars stopped at the intersection of 70th and State streets. Authorities said, before the crash, the suspect reached speeds up to 100 mph. The impact sent one of the vehicles into a utility pole and the other into some trees. A woman inside the car that struck the utility pole was pronounced dead at the scene.
“It was a high-impact crash. I’ve been on the job for 25 years and that’s one of the worst crashes I’ve seen as far as one vehicle striking another vehicle,” said Illinois State Police Lt. Dave Wasmuth.
The victim was later identified as Maxsimillions Quarles-Gaston, 41, from Belleville, Illinois. According to authorities, Gaston and her husband recently returned home from their honeymoon. Officials said Gaston was only two miles from work whe the crash happened.
The driver inside the other vehicle was transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The suspect was taken to SLU Hospital in unknown condition. Police said they believed alcohol or drugs were a factor.
Officers stood watch at the hospital because, at the time, the suspect had not been charged. Without being charged, the suspect could have left the hospital following treatment. Authorities wanted to be there when he was released so they could take him into custody.
Gatson's uncle said the whole incident is an example of a changing society.
"I think the problem is, we have lost respect for life, humanity and the law," said Jerry Quarles. However, he added that Gaston would also want to stress compassion.
"She has a heart full of compassion for any and everybody," he said. "I'm pretty sure she would have embraced this young man's family."
Charges against the suspect are expected to be filed Thursday.