Centennial couple survives chain reaction crash on I-25 and Yale possibly caused by street racing

DENVER - A Centennial couple involved in a hit-and-run crash on Interstate 25 believe they were victims of a collision caused by street racing.

Jean Duane and her husband Mark Peretsman were driving back from Boulder with Duane's 90-year-old mother on Sunday night, when a speeding driver caused a chain reaction crash around 10 p.m. on southbound I-25 at Yale Avenue.

"We were just driving down I-25 at about 60 miles per hour and I heard this loud screeching right behind me," said Peretsman. "I just heard this horrible skidding and metal sound and the next thing you knew, we were hit."

A vehicle, they described as a navy BMW, hit another car which then slammed into their SUV.

"There were two people in the BMW and both of the people ran away," said Duane. "I think the moment that I realized that our (Christmas) plans had abruptly changed was when the airbag exploded in my face."

Four airbags deployed in their SUV. Both Duane and her mother were taken to the hospital by ambulance.

"I couldn't even turn around to see my mother in the backseat; I could hear her writhing in pain. I thought she was dying," said Duane.

The three were supposed to fly to California on Monday to spend Christmas with other family members.

"I couldn't get up yesterday without pain medication," said Duane.

"I guess our Christmas gift is we're still alive."

Denver Police told 7NEWS they are investigating the accident as a speed-related hit-and-run.

"(An officer) came to the door of my hospital room and told us that it was street racing. It's a known thing that happens every Sunday night from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m.," said Duane.

"They explained that this kind of accident is not uncommon; there's a lot of street racing going on in Denver that we were totally unaware of," said Peretsman.

Earlier this year, 7NEWS went undercover and watched street racing take place on multiple Sundays just off of Sixth Avenue near I-25.

Dozens of drivers raced their vehicles, taking up the entire stretch of a two-way street. In some cases, three cars would race down the street at once. Each time, once the first Denver police car arrived with its red-and-blue lights flashing, the drivers would zoom off. On the days we observed, officers did not pursue the drivers and no one was arrested.

"Street racer, you wrecked our Christmas, but more important you're wrecking people's lives," said Duane. "Be accountable for what you did."

The following is a letter Duane wrote, hoping that the driver who caused the crash will read it:

Dear Street Racer,

On Sunday evening we were on our way home from picking up my mother, chatting about the trip we planned to start the next morning to California to visit my sister and her family for Christmas.  At her age of 90, we know we have only a few more chances to make this type of journey.  We talked about how beautifully my sister decorates her home, our traditions of singing together on Christmas Eve, and the delicious meals with her family and friends.

We didn’t anticipate the violent collision we were about to be in when we were hit from behind on I-25 by a car that was careening out of control after being hit by you at a very high rate of speed. Our vehicle spun violently and crashed hard into the cement divider wall, and then spun back across the highway. We were saved by the multiple airbags, seatbelts and stout construction of our vehicle.

When we came to rest we were completely disoriented but braced for additional impacts that thankfully didn’t come. The car was full of the smoke and smell of the airbags. My chest was seized with intense pain and all I could hear was my mother writhing in pain in the backseat. I was flooded with fear and shock. My husband was able to call 911 and help soon arrived.

At the hospital, we learned from the Denver Police that you were going 100 mph in your navy BMW in a street race – weaving in and out of traffic on I-25 around the Yale exit. There were eyewitnesses that said you hit the car behind us, causing it to roll.  Your car came to a stop in front of ours and you and your companion ran from the scene of the accident. 

Street Racer, there were two babies and a young mother in the other car you rolled.  They were upside down in the wreck you ran from.  I can understand panicking after causing such a bad chain reaction, but this was no accident.  You were deliberately driving fast and recklessly in an apparent organized event that happens regularly on Sunday nights in Denver, according to the police. 

After been examined, X-rayed and CAT scanned we were released from the hospital. We are all badly bruised and trying to get past the mental anguish. We are unable travel to California.  The shakes and chills of the shock lasted hours.  The two crashing impacts have played over and over in my mind ever since. Our vehicle is very damaged. It will be a large unexpected outlay to replace it.

I’m unpacking my suitcase this Christmas Eve, depressed as I hang up the outfit I planned to wear at the Christmas Eve dinner, and the other on Christmas day.  I’m disappointed about not sharing a Christmas with my sister, and instead of feeling the warmth and love of family and friends this holiday I feel pain in my chest, back, neck and heart.  I am worried about my mother.

Street Racer, you may not have killed anyone this time, but you wrecked our Christmas, our vehicle, and rattled our spirits and deprived us of enjoying our traditions. 

Did you think of that as you cowardly left the scene?

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