PRINCETON — An early morning high-speed chase in Princeton took an unexpected turn Thursday when the driver ditched his vehicle, took off running, and fell “head first” over a large cliff, police said.

Sgt. W.E. Rose, of the Princeton Police Department, who was pursuing the man on foot, was unable to stop in time and also ended up over the cliff. Sgt. C.T. Lowe, of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, jumped off the cliff, and landed on a tree, Acting Princeton Police Chief W.L. Harman said.

Harman said the pursuit began around 1 a.m. on Mercer Street in Princeton when Rose spotted a man authorities were wanting to speak with enter the passenger side of the vehicle. When Lowe pulled up behind the vehicle, the driver took off. About two blocks off Mercer Street, the passenger then jumped out of the vehicle.

Harman said Rose then slowed down to see if the man was OK, and then proceeded to pursue the vehicle. The pursuit continued all the way to Interstate 77 northbound, and just north of the first travel plaza.

“The driver of the vehicle abandoned the vehicle while it was still moving,” Harman said. “It rolled up against the bank. It was around the 18 or 19 mile marker just north of the bridges over the Bluestone River. He (the suspect) ran down through the woods on foot with Sgt. Rose behind him.”

Harman said the driver of the vehicle, a 30-year-old Mercer County man, fell head-first over the cliff about 50 to 70 feet.

“Sgt. Rose also fell,” Harman said. “He was unable to stop and also just followed him right over the cliff.”

Harman said the suspect continued to “roll down the hill” falling another 100 feet or so. Rose hit a tree and came to a stop. Rose was then able to reach and handcuff the man for safety reasons. Lowe, who assisted in the pursuit, jumped off the cliff, landed on a tree, and then climbed down to assist Rose.

Harman said crews with the East River Volunteer Fire Department, the Princeton Rescue Squad and the Bluestone Valley Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene a short time later, and used ropes to help extricate all three individuals from the cliff.

Harman said the suspect, who is facing multiple charges, suffered serious injuries in the fall. The man was transported to Princeton Community Hospital where he was expected to be airlifted to Charleston Area Medical Center.

“They are contemplating sending him out to Charleston due to his injuries,” Harman said. “He fell head first.”

Harman said Rose suffered minor injuries, including some scratches and bruises. Rose also was checked out at PCH, Harman said. Lowe wasn’t injured in the jump.

Harman said charges are pending in the case against the driver of the vehicle. All three men were rescued from the cliff at about 6 a.m.

“Everybody is real lucky that the injuries aren’t worse than they are,” Harman said.