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Semi driver causes Daytona crash, flees with children, police say

Matthew Berthel faces several charges

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A semi-truck driver caused a multi-car crash on Saturday afternoon, and then fled with two children in his truck, Daytona Beach police said.

The driver of the semi, Matthew Berthel, was driving on a expired commercial drivers license when he crashed into four cars and led police on a chase Saturday, police said.

The incident happened as Berthel was heading east on Bellville Road and making a left on to Clyde Morris Boulevard, just after 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, police said.

Authorities said Berthel stopped and remained inside the semi at the scene, but fled when he saw an officer with his lights and sirens on.

Berthel then allegedly led police on a chase, and they were able to catch up with him at Midway Avenue and Richard Petty Boulevard.

When police approached him and instructed him to turn off and get out of his truck, officers saw a young girl peek around Berthel, and said that she was crying.

Berthel then sped off again, running red lights and hitting another vehicle, police said.

Berthel drove towards the first crash he fled from, police said.

Then, they say he drove his semi into oncoming traffic, forcing cars out of his way and swerving on Clyde Morris Boulevard.

Fire personnel reported that a little girl was in the passenger window screaming, "Help me," police said.

According to authorities, Berthel drove the through the City of Port Orange and abandoned his semi behind a 7-Eleven gas station, and was running with the two kids into nearby wooded area.

Officers were able to find the kids after 15 minutes.

"Daddy sad he was running because he had a warrant, but that he was going to give up because he hurt his leg," the children told officers.

Berthel did not comply with officers' commands and was bitten in his left ankle by a K-9 dog.

The same area where the children told officers their dad was hurt.

Berthel was too heavy to air-lifted to Halifax Hospital, but was transported by emergency medical services.

He was admitted to the hospital for his injuries.

The children had minor cuts and bruises and were picked up by a family member, police said.

Department of Children and Families were also contacted to start at report.

Berthel was charged with resisting an officer without violence, two counts of child abuse, two counts of hit-and-run with injuries, fleeing and eluding.

He was also charged with driving on license canceled or suspended.