NEWBURYPORT — Minutes after crashing into a stone wall near the Moseley Pines park entrance early Sunday, an Amesbury man’s car caught fire and a police officer had to pull him away from the flames.
Benjamin Higgins, 26, of Elizabeth Street was later charged with drunken driving, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, wanton destruction of property more than $1,200 and failing to keep right in a rotary, according to a police report.
Higgins was arraigned Monday in Newburyport District Court and released on personal recognizance. He is due back in court Sept. 9 for a pretrial hearing.
Newburyport police Officer Schyler Reilly responded to the park, next to the Merrimac Street roundabout, about 1:10 a.m. on Sunday and saw smoke rising from Higgins’ car after it smashed into the wall. The car then burst into flames.
After calling firefighters, Reilly saw Higgins trying to get into the car’s back seat.
“I quickly ran over to the vehicle and grabbed the male party and removed him from the vehicle, along with bystanders who were also assisting. I advised everyone on scene to get to a safe distance back as the vehicle was completely engulfed in flames,” Reilly wrote in his report.
Newburyport firefighters quickly arrived and put out the fire before it spread.
When speaking to Higgins, Reilly could smell alcohol on his breath, according to the officer’s report.
His eyes were bloodshot and glassy, his speech slurred and he was unsteady on his feet. Higgins, who was uninjured except for a cut on his face, told Reilly he had a few beers at a Newburyport restaurant and then stopped at a local bar for a few more, the report said.
“While waiting for the Newburyport Fire Department to extinguish the fire, I was able to see that Mr. Higgins had driven his vehicle from Merrimac Street, driving on to the curb and directly through the rotary kicking up dirt from the garden in the middle,” Reilly wrote in his report. “The vehicle had then continued straight through the rotary and crashed into the stone wall at the entrance on Moseley Pines.”
Higgins failed a series of field sobriety tests and declined a blood-alcohol test. After failing the tests, Higgins was arrested and charged with drunken driving. Assisting Reilly were police officers Christopher Mead, James Allen and Sgt. Jason Kohan.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.