An Iowa woman driving on Interstate 35 in Missouri on Sunday had the accelerator in her 2011 Kia Sorrento become stuck, leaving her barreling down the highway at more than 100 MPH, police said.
Lori Ubelstad, who police said was in her 40s, told police that she initially called her husband to ask for guidance when she realized her car was speeding out of control and her brakes weren’t working. But her husband’s suggestions didn’t work, so she dialed 911.
The 911 operator contacted Missouri State Highway Patrol and two troopers were sent to help. One trooper started trailing the runaway car while the other trooper managed traffic in front of the vehicle.
The 911 operator was feeding her advice from State Highway Patrol officers the entire time, but nothing she tried worked. Police said her brakes burned out and her gearbox failed and she couldn’t remove the key because the car uses a push to start ignition.
“Every [steering wheel] correction is more subtle when you are going over 100 MPH and for her to drop down in a grass median filled with holes and come back up was amazing,” said Sgt. Sheldon Lyon of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Lyon said that the asphalt lip on the side of the interstate is about four or five inches high, which makes going down into the median and coming back onto the road very difficult and dangerous. He said that Ubelstad did that eight or more times, also dodging traffic and weaving through a narrow construction zone.
“The most amazing part of this whole thing was that she was on the phone with a 911 operator the whole time,” said Lyon. “That means she managed to do all these things while driving with only one hand on the wheel.”
Missouri State Troopers had to follow the careening SUV for more than 30 minutes.
The car traveled about 59 miles before coming to a stop in Iowa near the Iowa-Missouri border with the engine still running. Police said they were not yet sure what caused the car to stop.
“She put herself in life-and-death situations several times,” said Lyon. “I feel sorry for her, but she did an outstanding job of controlling that vehicle in difficult circumstances. She overcame so many obstacles.”
Police say that this situation couldn’t have had a better ending, especially because no one was injured.
“At those speeds, when people hit each other, it usually results in injury or death,” said Lyon. “The woman did a great job of driving and I am proud of the way our troopers were able to handle the situation.”