A memorial soon was growing at the site where two teens died and a third was critically injured after a crash last Thursday at S.R. 256 and Thompson Road that ended in tragedy when the driver lost control of the vehicle and hit electric poles.  (Madison Courier staff photos)
A memorial soon was growing at the site where two teens died and a third was critically injured after a crash last Thursday at S.R. 256 and Thompson Road that ended in tragedy when the driver lost control of the vehicle and hit electric poles. (Madison Courier staff photos)
Authorities now say the car involved in a police chase and crash Thursday that claimed the lives of two Jefferson County teenagers and left a third, the driver, in critical condition, may have been involved in another crime that day.

The office of Jefferson County Prosecutor David Sutter issued a statement Monday morning noting that “in the interest of transparency, it is important to relay some of the information we do know regarding the initiation of the police interaction with the fleeing suspects and new information that has come to light.”

Based on preliminary investigations by detectives with the Indiana State Police, law enforcement authorities were trying to stop the driver, Blake S. Coombs, who had allegedly fled from lawful detention in Richmond, Indiana. In addition, Coombs and a passenger were allegedly suspects in a Jefferson County burglary that had taken place earlier on Thursday.

“Information we have at this time alleges that the driver of the vehicle, Blake S. Coombs, 18, aka Blake Isenhower, fled from lawful detention in Richmond, Indiana, and is being investigated for the theft of a vehicle from that facility,” said the statement from Sutter.

ISP Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, public information officer for the Versailles Post, said the car involved in the crash was not the car reported missing in Richmond but one owned by Tyler Cooley. The car that was reported stolen in Richmond at the time of Coombs’ escape from detention has not been recovered.

However, the car owned by Cooley and driven by Coombs, may have been involved in a Jefferson County theft.

“The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a burglary that occurred on January 9, 2020, involving stolen power tools and a 40” television. Law enforcement was provided information at the scene of the crash that Blake Coombs and Tyler Cooley were possible suspects in that burglary. Power tools and the remnants of a television were located by law enforcement at the crash scene,” Sutter’s statement noted.

Cooley, 18, of Hanover, and Brooklyn James, 19, of Madison, both died when Coombs lost control of a blue 2005 Toyota Corolla-S that struck two utility poles at the intersection of S.R. 256 and Thompson Road near Kent. The violent crash brought to an end a 20-minute pursuit that began at 3:45 p.m. when Coombs fled from a Madison Police Department officer north on S.R. 7 with officers from the Indiana State Police and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department joining the pursuit as it continued westbound on S.R. 250, southbound on S.R. 3, and then eastbound on S.R. 256 back toward Madison.

Cooley, the front seat passenger, and James, who was in the back seat, were both pronounced dead at the scene by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. Coombs was airlifted from the scene to a Louisville-area hospital where he is being treated for serious injuries.

In an interview later Monday morning, Sutter said it is too early to say what charges might be filed in the case with the death toll, the attempt to flee police and other investigations. He said the investigation is ongoing including autopsies and toxicology reports.

In his release Monday, Sutter noted that state police are also evaluating the actions taken by members of law enforcement in the incident.

“Following the recent police pursuit crash and the fatalities of local young adults, the Indiana State Police has been investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash to evaluate the actions taken by local law enforcement as well as those who fled from police. I will receive a report of their investigation and will make charging decisions at that time,” Sutter wrote. “The initial investigation indicates our local law enforcement officers followed all protocols for this type of engagement with fleeing suspects in the interest of the safety of the public. However, upon completion of the full investigation, I will certainly consider all facts put before me.

“I am keeping our community in my prayers, including the families and friends of the young adults involved, and our law enforcement officers who were involved in and at the scene,” Sutter wrote. “This is a tragic and unfortunate reminder to obey traffic stops and pull over safely, even if you fear the consequences. Thank you to the Indiana State Police, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, and the City of Madison Police Department for their work and service. I anticipate the full report on the investigation by the Indiana State Police in the coming weeks and will release additional information at that time.”