CALAIS, Maine — A 35-year-old Robbinston man who was headed home early Sunday morning landed in jail after the truck he was driving smashed into a police officer’s Jeep three times, traveled for miles on its rim, hit black ice and rolled over, ripping off its roof.
Maine State Police charged Donald Laviolet with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants and driving to endanger. The Calais police charged him with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident and aggravated criminal mischief.
It all started around 1 a.m. Sunday when police were called to a traffic accident near the corner of Main and North streets across from Mainline Studio.
A Jeep, which belonged to Calais police Officer David Claroni, was parked on Main Street when Laviolet, driving a 1989 Chevrolet pickup truck, smashed into it three times, sending it to the top of a snowbank.
“The first time he hit it, then backed up and hit it again and then backed up and hit it again,” Officer Bob Fitzsimmons said Monday. The three hits apparently were not intentional; Laviolet was just having trouble getting past the Jeep.
Fitzsimmons said alcohol appeared to be a factor in the accident.
When police arrived, they found the vehicle’s calling card. “Lucky thing for us, when he hit Dave’s Jeep, the [front] license plate fell off [Laviolet’s vehicle] so we had a pretty good idea who it was and where they were going,” Fitzsimmons said.
Witnesses told police the vehicle then proceeded south on Route 1 toward Robbinston.
Fitzsimmons called in another Calais officer to help. The backup officer, Officer Greg Sawyer, was escorting the Calais Blue Devils boys basketball team through the city because they had just won the state championship in Bangor.
The officers gave chase.
A few miles down the road, they found the remains of a shredded tire in front of Pratt’s Chevrolet.
At the city line, Maine State Police Trooper Jason Fowler picked up the chase.
Fowler said eyewitnesses later reported that the white pickup truck had raced past them near the Robbinston post office. Having shredded one of its tires, the vehicle “was running on the rim with sparks showering all over the road,” he said.
When the trooper came within sight of the Robbinston Boat Landing, the pickup truck was motionless, roofless and had smoke coming from it, Fowler said.
The truck had hit a patch of black ice, spun around, flown up in the air, struck a utility pole and rolled over, coming to rest on its three remaining tires and hub, Fowler said. “He was going at a high rate of speed,” the trooper added.
The vehicle had traveled 10.4 miles on its rim. “The only thing that was left of the rim was the lug nuts and part of the hub,” Fitzsimmons said.
Although Laviolet’s pickup was demolished, Laviolet suffered only minor injuries. “If he had not had his seat belt on, he would have been dead,” Fowler said. “We are talking about a vehicle with no roof left on it.”
Laviolet was taken by Downeast EMS to Calais Regional Hospital and was treated and then released — directly to jail.
When police asked Laviolet why he was in such a hurry, he told them he wanted to go home and go to bed, Fitzsimmons said. “He went to bed later on, just not at home,” Fowler said, referring to the Washington County Jail.
The damage to Claroni’s Jeep was estimated at $5,000.
Laviolet is out of jail on bail, but it was unclear Monday night what the amount of his bail was.