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Officials say death in Jeep self-inflicted

Thursday, February 24, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:30 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The driver of a Jeep that crashed into a utility pole and exploded Tuesday ignited the vehicle to take her own life, fire officials said Wednesday.

“We believe that this was intentional,” Columbia fire Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said.

The fire department was awaiting positive identification of the body from dental records before releasing the name of the victim.

“We have spoken with family members who expressed that the victim expressed wishes to harm herself in various ways in the past,” Sapp said.

Fire officials said they think the interior of the 1990s-model Jeep Grand Cherokee had been soaked with a flammable liquid, most likely gasoline.

The fire department has sent samples from the vehicle to the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab for testing.

The vehicle burst into flames on Business Loop 70 and turned onto Pannell Street, where it slowed momentarily. The vehicle then accelerated and exploded again when it hit a utility pole in the 1100 block of Pannell Street.

“The driver was somehow able to get through the pain and drive,” Sapp said.

Pannell Street was closed between Smith and Wilkes streets for about an hour while police and fire officials investigated the scene.


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