911 audio – Troopers, police use stop sticks on ‘runaway’ vehicle

This article was changed to say that Fellsmere police also helped to stop the runaway vehicle. 


INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A motorist driving at a high rate of speed on northbound Interstate 95 was in a dilemma after he was “unable to stop the vehicle,” according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

“I think my gas pedal is stuck to my car,” driver Joseph Cooper, 28, of Palm Coast, told 911 dispatchers. Cooper, who spoke in a frantic tone, told dispatchers he was unable to put the sports utility vehicle in neutral or stop the vehicle.

It was a harrowing journey that involved several troopers and Fellsmere police angling to stop a runaway SUV racing uncontrollably down a busy stretch of a highway.

Here is the audio of the 911 call, provided by Florida Highway Patrol


Dispatchers asked Cooper if his brakes were working. He replied yes, but then said he didn’t want to slam on them since the SUV was traveling at 100 mph.

The dispatchers calmly continued to give Cooper instructions to try and stop the SUV, none of which were successful.

Troopers who already were stationary on I-95 were put on alert to look for the disabled vehicle about 1 p.m. Monday from mile marker 110 to mile marker 155. A trooper turned around at mile marker 112 and waited on the left shoulder for the SUV to pass by, troopers said.

Cooper switched lanes to avoid hitting other vehicles. “Get out of the way!” he yelled to other vehicles, which can be heard in the 911 call.

Two minutes later, the SUV, which had on its four-way flashers and a green strobe light, sped past the trooper’s vehicle at a high rate of speed. The trooper drove behind the SUV and then pulled alongside the vehicle.

Cooper made hand gestures to the trooper that he was unable to stop the vehicle, which was now traveling between 85 and 95 mph, authorities said. Other troopers helped to block traffic entrances as the runaway vehicle and the trooper’s vehicle continued down the highway.

Troopers placed stop sticks twice in the roadway to get the vehicle to slow down near mile markers 138 and 147. The SUV’s two right tires blew out, the vehicle slowed down to about 60 mph and continued traveling northbound.

Troopers asked for assistance from Fellsmere police to help stop the vehicle as it reached the city limits, according to police chief Keith Touchberry.

When the SUV continued several more miles, a police officer stationed at the 153 mile marker threw retractable spike strips and was able to blow out the remaining tires on the left side. The vehicle slowed down to about 40 mph and was riding on all 4 rims with no tires.

A stop stick, also called a spike strip, is a device used to slow or stop the movement of a vehicle by puncturing its tires. The strip is made of long metal barbs or spikes that point upward. 

The vehicle began to swerve when it reached mile marker 155 and then came to a stop on the inside lane. Cooper felt pain in his chest and was taken by ambulance to the Indian River Medical Center.

His vehicle was towed by Florida Towing. The disabled SUV incident remains under investigation by the FHP.

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