HAHIRA — The Lowndes County coroner has identified a man who died in a crash late Saturday that left two others injured after a high-speed pursuit.

Benjamin Lewis, age unknown, was killed in the wreck, Coroner Austin Fiveash said. His hometown could not be determined because he was a "ward of the state" who had lived "all over the place" but had family in Ware County, he said. The family has been notified, Fiveash said.

No autopsy is planned; Fiveash said he ruled Lewis dead of "blunt force trauma" at the site of the crash.

The chase began with an automobile stolen in Columbus, Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said.

Cook County deputies took up the chase after attempting a traffic stop as the car headed south on Interstate 75, Fiveash said.

Lowndes County deputies set up spike strips but never engaged in pursuit, Paulk said. Law enforcement had ended the chase as the car crossed into Lowndes County, Fiveash said.

The car tried to get off Exit 29 in Hahira at nearly 150 miles per hour, Paulk said.

The car went airborne, rolled a couple of times and came to rest on the front of the Bigfoot Travel Center in Hahira, Fiveash said.

“He never slowed down,” Paulk said. “I can’t believe anyone would try to get off an exit at that speed … he went airborne and cleared a concrete barrier.”

A woman sitting on a bench in front of the travel center was injured, Paulk said.

There were two occupants in the car, the sheriff said. Lewis, the passenger, was killed; the driver, a 16-year-old male, was injured and life-flighted, Fiveash said. 

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.

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