MERRIMAC — The decision to flee from the car they had just slammed against a tree early Sunday morning has left a Boston man and his Salisbury accomplice facing numerous charges after their arraignment yesterday in Newburyport District Court.

Arrested soon after veering off West Main Street, Joshua Whitney, 25, and 31-year-old Nathan Souther of Central Avenue, Salisbury, were charged with disorderly conduct, leaving the scene after property damage and wanton destruction of property more than $250. Whitney was released on personal recognizance, while Souther is being held on $120 cash bail. Both are due back Jan. 7 for pretrial hearings. 

According to the report of Merrimac police officer Mark Sayers, a witness saw Souther and Whitney take off into a section of woods around 75 West Main St., after crashing a gray Nissan against a tree and leaving it running. The witness noticed that the heat from the exhaust pipe had set nearby leaves on fire, prompting him to extinguish the blaze with a bucket of water. 

Sayer then called for backup, which included Amesbury police K-9 officer Thomas Nichols and his partner Achilles. Amesbury police and local police, along with Massachusetts State Police troopers, conducted a search of the area around a cell tower and the Merrimac rest stop off Interstate 495. 

Nichols and Achilles began to pick up the duo’s tracks near the former Harbor Schools behind 100 West Main St. and found a can of beer that belonged to the suspects. The trail continued into an adjacent tree farm toward Interstate 495. The suspects were caught minutes later just below an embankment in a marshy area just before the rest stop. As a result, Souther and Whitney, along with several officers, left the area soaking wet, Sayer wrote in his report. 

An inventory search of the car resulted in the seizure of a 30-can case of beer, matching the can found in the woods. Police attempted to contact the owner of the vehicle to determine if the suspects had permission to operate the vehicle, but they were unable to do so. 

“I asked which one had been driving at the time of crash. Neither would admit to driving the vehicle. Both Souther and Whitney appeared to be visibly intoxicated,” Sayer wrote in his report, adding that neither had a valid driver’s license. 

Eventually, the vehicle’s owner was located and visited the station. There she told police that she lent it to Souther but didn’t know which suspect had actually done the driving, according to Sayer’s report. 

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