2 dead in fiery wreck after police chase near Lake Norman

Two people died early Sunday when their vehicle crashed into a tree and burst into flames while the driver tried to evade police, authorities said.

Cornelius police identified the dead men as Andrew Mark Krolikowski, 24, of Huntersville and passenger Jason Ray Monroe, 24, of Charlotte.

The wreck happened about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. A Cornelius police officer saw a car speeding on Catawba Avenue near Jetton Road and tried to stop it, but the driver sped away, police said in a news release.

As the driver approached the intersection of Jetton Road and West Catawba Avenue, the vehicle nearly struck a second Cornelius police car, the news release said, and the driver continued traveling west on Jetton Road.

Police briefly chased the car but decided to end the chase, turned off their emergency equipment and lost sight of the car, the release said.

The driver kept going but left the road shortly after and struck a tree near the intersection of Jetton and Meta roads, about a mile from where the chase started.

Neighbors told the Observer they were awakened by a series of loud booms. They said they heard sirens and saw flashing lights shortly afterward. The crash knocked one tree from its roots and sent it flying across several yards. Another tree and a large patch of pine straw were burned, along with the car.

Cornelius firefighters arrived to put out the fire, but the people inside were already dead, police said in the release.

The crash happened on the same street where the sons of professional drag racer Doug Herbert died in January 2008. Jon Herbert, 17, was driving 80 mph in a 45-mph zone on Jetton Road when he spun out of control and crossed four lanes of traffic, according to the accident report.

His Mazda hit a Hummer in the westbound lane head-on, killing himself and his brother James, 12. The Hummer’s two occupants were eventually released from the hospital.

On Sunday, several neighbors, who did not want their names used in a story about potentially criminal acts, said Jetton Road has its share of speeders, but they believe it remains safe.

The road has 35 mph and 45 mph speed limits and leads to major subdivisions, such as The Peninsula and Jetton Cove. It has crosswalks with flashing lights that warn motorists of people crossing from Jetton Park or a nearby golf course.

Police said investigators were expected to take more measurements and further examine what caused the wreck late Sunday.

Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms