A high school honor student and track standout drowned when she jumped into a canal while running away from police following a hit-and-run accident, authorities said.
Family members and police were trying to make sense of the death Monday of Rachel Hooppaw, 16.
Police spokesman Angelo Bitsis said Hooppaw was spotted causing the hit-and-run and fled from her Toyota SUV when police approached. She had been driving to a hospital with a companion who police said shot himself in the leg, apparently by accident.
Hooppaw ran between some houses before jumping into a 12-foot-deep canal, Bitsis said. Officers repeatedly ordered Hooppaw out of the canal, but she swam away. She went under water and did not resurface.
She was not breathing when divers recovered her body from the canal. Her companion, Jeffrey Fenneman, 23, was treated for his wound at a hospital and released.
Hooppaw’s stepfather, Dean Cavalieri, thinks she panicked.
“We don’t know what happened,” he said. “We are looking for answers, too.” Cavalieri didn’t know what his stepdaughter was doing at Fenneman’s home or how she knew him.
No one was seriously injured in the hit-and-run crash, authorities said.