HOULTON, Maine — An officer with the Houlton Police Department is out on medical leave after a car he was driving while off duty was struck by a man accused of drunken driving.
The accident that injured Houlton police Officer Stewart Kennedy, 22, of Linneus happened on Aug. 12, Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said Tuesday. The chief said he had delayed releasing news of the accident until he had a chance to interview Kennedy, who was hospitalized briefly after suffering a spinal fracture in the crash.
Asselin said Kennedy and his passenger, Benjamin Bell, 21, of Linneus were headed to Houlton from Linneus in Kennedy’s 2006 Dodge Charger just before 8:30 p.m.
Bell was in the passenger seat and noticed that a vehicle had failed to stop for a stop sign at the intersection of Drew’s Lake and Bangor roads.
Bell alerted Kennedy, who braked and turned to the right just an instant before the 1997 Chevrolet Lumina driven by Michael Kelley, 56, of Houlton struck the front driver’s side wheel and fender of Kennedy’s vehicle.
After the accident, Kelley quickly reversed direction and took off back onto Drew’s Lake Road, according to the chief. His vehicle had minor damage to its front left quarter panel.
Kennedy’s vehicle could not be driven.
Cpl. Dana Duff and Officer Rick York of the Houlton Police Department were called to the accident. Officer York located the Lumina at Houlton Community Golf Course in New Limerick a short time after the crash.
Duff interviewed Kelley, who admitted to being the driver involved in the crash, Asselin said Tuesday. Kelley allegedly had been at the golf course’s clubhouse celebrating his birthday with friends. While en route back to the clubhouse after the accident, Kelley reportedly contacted his wife on his cell phone and instructed her to pick him up.
Asselin said Kelley initially told his wife his car had been stolen, which he also reportedly told police when he first was questioned. He later allegedly admitted that he had consumed three beers and was behind the wheel of the Lumina when it crashed.
Kelley was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants, and also was charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.
Asselin said Kennedy initially appeared to have suffered only burns to his arms from the deployed air bag, but on the day after the accident Kennedy began experiencing pain in his lower back. He sought medical treatment and was diagnosed with a spinal fracture in his lower back. Kennedy was treated at Houlton Regional Hos-pital and is on medical leave as a result of his injury.
Kennedy’s date of return has yet to be determined, according to the chief.
Neither Bell nor Kelley was injured seriously, nor did they require medical treatment.
Asselin said Tuesday that had Kennedy not made a defensive maneuver before the impact, his injuries could have been more serious.
Kennedy has been with the Houlton Police Department since 2008.
There was no information on seat belt use available Tuesday because the accident report has not been completed, Asselin said.