Police believe crash was attempted suicide

A 17-year-old Ashland girl attempted suicide by launching her car off Leonard Street and stabbing herself in the stomach as the car careened down a 100-foot hillside behind Southern Oregon University Monday morning, police said.

The girl, whose name has not been released because of her age, suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the crash, said Sgt. Hector Meletich with the Ashland Police Department. She was transported to Rogue Valley Medical Center, where she was listed in stable condition Monday afternoon, he said.

"This was a very unusual incident," he said. "The vehicle was airborne for approximately 100 feet and we were fortunate that it didn't turn out worse than it already was."

The girl told police that she was attempting to kill herself, Meletich said. In addition to sending her car airborne on a steep hill, she stabbed herself in the stomach using a knife with an approximately 7-inch blade, he said.

The car was traveling "fast" down Leonard Street — one of the steepest streets in the city — when it went over a curb and plowed through a metal guardrail just before 7 a.m., Meletich said.

"There are no skid marks, so that's an indication that either her breaks failed or she did not break," he said.

The girl does not live in the area where the crash occurred, Meletich said. She also does not appear to have any connection to SOU, said Eric Rodriguez, co-director of campus public safety.

The car, a teal Chevy Cavalier, went airborne twice during the crash, Meletich said.

"Apparently, the vehicle was coming down Leonard, hit the curb and went airborne," he said. "Then it hit again on the side of the mountain, and went airborne again, crashed to a fence and skidded to a stop."

The car plowed through tree branches and other vegetation on the hillside, before launching off the hill, over a parked car, and coming to a rest against two metal poles behind the library, officials said. The car's airbags deployed in the crash, Meletich said.

The car appeared to have been totaled in the crash, he said.

Only the driver was in the car at the time of the crash and no one else was injured in the incident, he said. The girl was conscious at the time of the crash, but further information on the extent of her injuries was not immediately available, police said.

Police and SOU campus public safety officials said they were not aware of any similar crashes having occurred in the area before.

"The location was certainly a surprise because there's not a road that goes down there normally," Rodriguez said. "In the four years I've been here, this is the first incident in that area."

Police are still looking in to whether safety should be improved on Leonard Street — perhaps by installing a sturdier guardrail — in light of the incident, Meletich said.

Several SOU employees on the scene immediately following the crash said they were stunned by the distance the car had launched down the hill.

"From my view of it, it was a serious crash, and the airbags deployed in the car so there was a pretty big impact that went with it," Rodriguez said.

Carl Christy, a system's analyst who works in SOU's library and arrived on the scene shortly after the crash, said he was glad to hear the girl was in stable condition at the hospital.

"It could have been a lot worse," he said. "It's pretty much a miracle that she came through it as easy as she did."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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