MONTREAL - Vehicles collided downtown on Tuesday when a driver put his SUV between a speeding car and a group of pedestrians, possibly saving lives, police said.

The crash happened after a police chase down Rene-Levesque Blvd.

At 12:30 p.m., Montreal police tried to pull over a car, driven by a 19-year-old man, on Rene-Levesque Blvd., near Berri St., but it sped off.

A chase ensued eastbound down the boulevard.

Trying to shake them off, the pursued driver pulled a u-turn and began heading west towards St-Denis St.

He stopped briefly for police, but as soon as the officers got out of their vehicle to approach, he sped off again, an SPVM spokesperson said.

At the corner of St-Denis street, as many as 12 people crossed the street as the car approached.

If the driver of a grey Mercedes SUV hadn't taken action, the car may have hit the group, the spokesperson said.

The SUV driver, sitting at a red light on St-Denis St., noticed the oncoming car and the police in pursuit. Seeing the pedestrians crossing the road who could have been hit, he drove in front of the car, absorbing the impact and protecting the group of people, Montreal police said. None were hit.

The force of the collision shattered the front bumpers of both cars. A third vehicle, a taxi, was also damaged.

The driver of the fleeing car was taken to the hospital immediately following the accident, but his injuries were not considered severe. Police later transported him to a detention centre where investigators questioned him. Police suspect he may have been intoxicated.

Investigators erected a perimeter in the area, closing Rene-Levesque Blvd. for several hours between Berri St. and Hotel-de-Ville Ave.

The driver of the SUV was not injured.