BANGOR, Maine — A local man was lucky to escape with his life Thursday night after the stolen vehicle he was driving caught fire after a crash, according to police.
Michael Ralston, 28, stole the Toyota Sienna van from the parking lot of Domino’s Pizza on Clinton Street around 10:30 p.m. and took it for a joyride, according to Bangor police Sgt. Ed Potter.
The vehicle’s owner had gone into the store to get a pizza and had left the vehicle unlocked with the keys in the ignition, according to Potter.
Ralston, whom Potter said was intoxicated, drove up State Street, hit a small tree in a man’s yard on Fern Street and continued driving, the sergeant said. The vehicle nearly hit the man’s porch, according to Potter.
Ralston then ran a stop sign at the intersection of Grove and Somerset streets and crashed into a tree in front of multiple witnesses, according to Potter.
“When the van crashed, one of the witnesses saw the vehicle filling up with smoke,” the sergeant said.
Witnesses ran to the vehicle, smashed a window open and dragged Ralston out just before the engine caught fire.
Potter said that Ralston was the only person in the vehicle, and that witnesses estimated Ralston was going between 60 and 70 miles per hour at the time of the crash.
Ralston was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center for treatment. Police have charged him with operating under the influence, driving without a license, operating after suspension and leaving the scene of an accident due to his driving away from the first accident, the sergeant explained.
Ralston could face additional charges of vehicle theft and driving to endanger pending further investigation of the incident. Potter said it’s lucky nobody was killed.
“Even the witnesses themselves could’ve been potential victims,” he said.
Ralston has had brushes with the law before, according to Bangor Daily News archives. Earlier this summer, he was arrested for criminal trespass after a scuffle with another man at a Bangor convenience store. He was also arrested for misuse of 911 in a separate incident this summer. He was sentenced earlier this month to five days in jail for the misuse of 911 charge, 72 hours in jail for the criminal trespass charge and an additional 72 hours in jail for violating conditions of release, according to BDN archives.
Ralston also spent 60 days in jail for a theft conviction this year, and spent 75 days in lockup in 2011 after he was convicted of two counts of assault and criminal mischief, according to BDN archives.