Neighbours describe the Arnprior woman killed in the fiery conclusion of a high-speed police chase Monday as a "very sweet lady" who "lived for her grandkids" and always had a smile on her face.
Sheila Welsh, 65, died when a young man in a stolen pickup truck smashed into her vehicle as she pulled out of the driveway of the Daniel Street South home she'd moved into just a couple months earlier.
'Taking a life like that, it's not good, it's not right.' - Carolyn Keays, neighbour
Witnesses said the truck landed on top of Welsh's car, dragging it down the street before bursting into flames. Welsh was pronounced dead at the scene and the suspect was rushed to hospital in serious condition.
"She lived for her grandkids," said Carolyn Keays, who learned Tuesday morning Welsh had died.
Welsh's Facebook profile was a testament to the affection she had for her grandchildren. Photos of Welsh posing with a smiling child were posted just one week ago.
"It's devastating to see that something like this had happened. I don't have the words," Keays said. "I'm very upset with the gentleman that did what he did."
"Taking a life like that, it's not good, it's not right."
'You don't wish this on anyone'
were able to put the fire out and it reignited again. It was just awful. It was just awful."
After the crash police banged on residents' doors telling them to evacuate their homes as gasoline spilled out onto the roadway.
"She was just pulling from her driveway," Labelle said. "You don't wish this on anyone, even bad people. But she was so kind. She was a nice woman."
SIU investigating crash
The high-speed pursuit and how OPP officers responded are now the subject of an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit, an Ontario police watchdog.
They said around 3:20 p.m. on Monday, the OPP were called to investigate a report of a stolen vehicle in Eganville, approximately 130 kilometres west of Ottawa.
The 20-year-old driver of the vehicle headed toward Arnprior on Highway 60 and then to Highway 17. At that point, OPP started chasing after the vehicle.
Shortly after 4 p.m., the vehicle was travelling northeast along Daniel Street South in Arnprior and collided with Welsh's sedan and an unoccupied construction vehicle.
The suspect, who is from Eganville, Ont., was rushed to hospital.
The OPP said Tuesday evening Zachary Wittke was charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, fleeing while being pursued by police, driving while disqualified and theft of a motor vehicle over $5,000. He is being held in custody and will appear in court for a bail hearing on Friday.
Five investigators, two forensic investigators, and one collision reconstructionist have been assigned to investigate the events leading up to and including the crash.
The SIU is urging anyone with information, including video footage, regarding the incident to call 1-800-787-8529.
The police watchdog is called in whenever there is an incident involving a police officer in Ontario that results in a death, serious injury, or allegation of sexual assault.