The suspect blasted past crews working on Columbia Avenue in Castlegar (Photo: John Boivin)

UPDATE: Police seek witnesses in Castlegar road rampage

Lake Country man faces 13 charges, including robbery, dangerous driving, flight from police, assault with a weapon, theft, and drug charges.

Residents of Castlegar feared for their lives Wednesday morning when a speeding car tore through a construction zone on the city’s main street.

The Castlegar RCMP arrested a 28-year-old Lake Country man in relation to the incident, which involved a stolen vehicle and several assaults, according to police.

The suspect had just been released from RCMP custody on Tuesday, after allegedly stealing a vehicle in Langley on Nov. 5.

In the Tuesday incident, Castlegar RCMP tried to pull over a truck for a burned-out headlight at approximately 1:30 a.m., but the suspect refused to stop and fled at high speed.

An officer in a second police vehicle spotted the truck, which then pulled a U-turn and struck the police vehicle before speeding away again.

The truck was spotted a third time and an attempt to use a spike belt was unsuccessful as police were unable to deploy it in time.

According to the RCMP, the truck then accelerated past police vehicles but failed to negotiate a sharp corner at the intersection of Lakeview Street and Arrow Lakes Drive, where it became lodged on top of a cement barrier.

The suspect was arrested at the scene. Officers found just over $10,000 in cash and small amounts of suspected methamphetamine and cannabis in the truck, police said.

The man was released from custody Tuesday night.

RCMP Sgt. Darren Oelke told the Castlegar News that the second incident began Wednesday morning when the suspect attempted to rob a woman who was giving him a ride.

The woman managed to get away but the suspect stole her vehicle, Oelke said.

Castlegar resident Rebecca Vassilakakis was on her way to work through the construction zone on Columbia Avenue when she noticed a small car speeding down the middle of the road towards her, she said.

“It was kind of wild,” Vassilakakis said. “There were pylons going everywhere.”

The car was moving erratically, swerving and even going up on the sidewalk, she said.

“People were jumping out of the way.”

The RCMP confirmed the suspect car nearly hit a construction flagger and several workers.

Another construction worker, pushing a wheelbarrow, had just crossed in front of Vassilakais’s car when she saw the suspect vehicle, she said.

Vassilakakis began honking her horn to warn people there was trouble.

“There were all these people around working, and you wouldn’t know that someone was driving crazy, driving straight down the middle,” she said.

“He was driving so fast… two or three pieces of his car were flying off, people were jumping out of the way,” Vassilakakis added. “I was just worried for those people’s lives who were not inside of cars.”

The suspect fled west on Highway 3, until the vehicle he was driving got a flat tire. At that point, he tried to force a pickup truck off the road, police said.

The truck driver stopped and was then assaulted by the suspect, who also tried to steal his vehicle, according to Oelke.

“The suspect was subdued by the driver of the pickup truck and the driver of a transport trailer,” he said.

“But he got away from them and tried to steal the transport truck as well.”

Oelke said the suspect was then subdued a second time by the men and held for police.

Sean Patrick Byrne appeared in Rossland court Wednesday and will be held in custody until December 6.

He is facing a total of 13 charges, including robbery, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, flight from police, impaired driving, assault, assault with a weapon, theft, possession of stolen property, and drug charges.

Police are asking any witnesses to the incidents to call the Castlegar RCMP at 250-365-7721.

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