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A speeding car fleeing from a police traffic stop launched into the air and crashed into a man, woman and small child as they were getting into their car Sunday morning in Salt Lake City.

The man was critically injured but had improved to serious condition as of Sunday night, said Salt Lake Police Lt. Isaac Atencio. The woman and child received less severe injuries. The three were taken to an area hospital.

A police officer had attempted to pull over the driver at the 7-Eleven at 535 E. 1700 South for not having a rear license plate, said Salt Lake Police Lt. Bryce Johnson. The man driving the vehicle sped off and turned west on Downington Avenue (1805 South).

The police officer, following protocol, turned off her emergency lights and pulled to the side of the road, rather than chase the automobile through a residential neighborhood, Johnson said.

But the driver of the fleeing car clipped the rear of a car parked on Downington Avenue, causing his vehicle to swerve, hit a tree near 250 East and launch airborne over the hood of a car parked in a home's driveway. His vehicle hit the man, woman and child, who were getting into the car.

"It sounded like a bomb at first," said Doug Tollstrup, who lives across the street. I thought, 'What in the hell is that?' I looked out there and that car is sitting clear up there, almost on the porch. And I saw the driver crawling out of the window of the car."

The driver took off on foot, with neighbors giving chase for a while. The man headed toward a construction site just south of the Salt Lake Community College campus at 1600 South and State Street.

Officers searched with K-9 units and found a 20-year-old man west of 200 East and 1700 South, Johnson said. He likely will be booked on suspicion of fleeing from an officer and a hit-and-run, Johnson said.

Because of the police department's involvement, the Utah Highway Patrol will investigate the crash.

Erin Alberty contributed to this story.