WEST CHESTER — Ever wonder how fast a BMW can go on the open road? Just ask Tredyffrin police Officer Christopher Middleton. He knows firsthand.
Middleton was the arresting officer in a high speed drunk driving chase that saw a 2018 BMW sedan hit speeds of more than 150 miles per hour on Route 202 before crashing into an exit barrier.
The driver of the German “ultimate driving machine," Irina Zhukova, miraculously walked away from the crash, suffering only a broken nose. But she was found to have alcohol in her system while she was operating the sports car, and was charged with driving under the influence.
On Monday, Zhukova, 37, of Philadelphia, formerly of Downingtown, pleaded guilty to DUI charges, for which she will be sentenced at a later date. A first offender, she faces a possible maximum sentence of three to six months in Chester County Prison.
“This is a serious case,” said Judge Patrick Carmody, who accepted the plea after noting that Zhukova was traveling more than three times the posted speed limit when she led Middleton on the pursuit. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, but have your affairs in order at the time of the sentencing.”
Zhukova left the proceeding with her attorney, Basil Beck of Philadelphia, without commenting on the case. She is expected to give up her right to trial and enter the guilty plea.
According to the facts of the case as recited by Assistant District Attorney Kaitlin Macauley and court records, on Sept. 15 at 1:20 a.m., Sgt. Donald Molineux was conducting a traffic stop on Route 202 south near the Route 29 interchange in East Whiteland when he saw a car speeding by on the northbound side of the road near the Great Valley exit. He radioed ahead with an alert to other officers.
Middleton was on the highway near the West Valley Road exit and saw the car pass at an extremely high rate of speed in the center lane. He activated his emergency lights and siren and gave chase, only to find that he could not catch up with the car.
Using his VASCAR unit, he timed the car as traveling 158.6 mph, or 4.7 seconds over less than a quarter mile. He saw the BMW put on its brakes at the Old Eagle School Road area, then veer off to the right and the Devon Park Drive exit, but lost sight of it as it continued toward I-76.
When he exited the highway, he spotted the BMW on its side in the road, apparently having struck a concrete exit barrier. When he checked the driver, she was still buckled in with the car’s air bag deployed. As she unbuckled herself and fell out of the car, Middleton wrote in his complaint, he could detect an odor of alcohol on her breath. But she denied having had anything to drink.
The driver, identified as Zhokova, was taken to Paoli Hospital, where she was treated for her injuries. While in the emergency room, Middleton said, he could still detect an odor of alcohol, but she refused to submit to a blood test. It was not until he was able to obtain a search warrant that her blood was drawn and she was found to have a blood alcohol count of .12, above the .08 legal limit.
In addition to the DUI charge, she was charged with speeding and careless and reckless driving.
No date was set for sentencing.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.