Wild Vt. Car Chase Ends at Bottom of Lake Champlain

A wild police chase this weekend in Vermont's Franklin County ended with a car flying off a dock and into Lake Champlain.

Investigators say the pursuit started after a robbery suspect was spotted wearing a critical piece of evidence that actually helped them track him.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office says a panic alarm went off at the Maplefields store in Enosburgh at 7:14 p.m. Saturday.

Deputies suspect 38-year-old Stephen Salyer of Enosburgh robbed the store with a box cutter.

According to the sheriff's department, the store clerk noticed the man with the blade was wearing a monitoring device from the state’s corrections department. Probation and parole officials checked the area and tracked the GPS unit to Salyer's car.

When law enforcement found the vehicle, they say the driver led them on a lengthy chase hitting 80 miles per hour on winding rural roads, until they put down spikes to pop the tires.

The sheriff's department says the pursuit, which started in Berkshire, went through Franklin, Sheldon, Swanton, and into St. Albans.

Even with his tires shredded and gone, deputies say Salyer kept going for several miles. It was nearly midnight by the time he was barreling straight toward the lake at St. Albans Bay, sheriff's deputies said.

Capt. Thomas Oliver of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department told necn the suspect busted through a cable gate with his car, then continued down the dock, leaving scars on the pavement that appear to have been left when he drove on his rims.

At the end of the dock, Oliver said Salyer hit a curb, then went over it and into the bay.

The suspect made it out of his car and investigators say he was still trying to get away — swimming now–when reached a neighboring marina.

"I have never had a pursuit end in the lake like that — that's very unusual," Capt. Oliver said. "It showed the determination of the suspect to try to get away. He was obviously bent on escaping, as much as he could possibly try."

LouAnn Rhodes, who was vacationing on Lake Champlain from Pennsylvania, said she was glad no innocent bystanders were hurt in all this.

"It's crazy — very crazy," Rhodes said when she heard of the chase as described by members of law enforcement. "[The suspect] can be lucky that nobody was down here fishing and him hitting somebody, to be honest. That could've been a tragic situation."

Salyer was arrested after that short swim, and the Franklin County Sheriff's Office said he is expected to face a slew of charges, including robbery, attempting to elude officers, speeding, grossly negligent operation and violation of court orders.

There was a delay, however, to Salyer's day in court, at which he could have an opportunity to deny the accusations. Deputies said the suspect was hospitalized for serious back injuries, possibly suffered from that hard crash into the water.

Capt. Oliver praised the Vermont State Police, St. Albans Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, Vermont probation and parole officials and the St. Albans Town Fire Department for their assistance in handling the case Saturday night.

The Franklin County State Attorney's Office would not comment on whether or not Salyer had an attorney.

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