PORTLAND - Portland police say a driver whose car plunged into the Columbia River may have lost control of the vehicle trying to avoid spike strips that officers put on the road.

The driver is missing and a passenger was reported recovering after the early morning chase on Monday east of Portland International Airport.

A police statement Tuesday said the chase began because the driver, acting suspiciously during a traffic stop, suddenly took off.

Police said they halted the chase after about five minutes because it might endanger public safety. But the spike strips had already been deployed on Marine Drive, and within a minute the driver came upon them.

The left tire of the car police were chasing Monday hit the spike strip, said a statement from Detective Mary Wheat, a police spokeswoman.

Crash investigators "believe that the driver was operating the vehicle at speeds exceeding 80 miles per hour when he possibly tried to maneuver around the spike strip," Wheat said. "Investigators believe that the high speeds and the swerving maneuver possibly caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle."

The car crashed through a guardrail and rolled into the river

Divers searched but could not find the driver.

The passenger, 28-year-old Joshua Lindsay, was hospitalized in critical condition, the police said.

Wheat's statement said police are trying to confirm the identity of the driver and notify relatives before making his name public.

It said the officer who stopped the car had noted that that there was a warrant for the registered owner of the vehicle.

Neither the driver nor the passenger matched the description of the owner, Wheat said. As the officer was talking to them, they "began acting suspicious," the statement said, and then the driver sped off.

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