POLICE: Driver Of Car In Head-On Crash May Have Overdosed

Caledonia County Courthouse Court St. Johnsbury

Police say a St. Johnsbury man involved in a head-on Hasting’s Hill crash had booze and drugs in his system.

Damien M. Emerson, 21, pleaded not guilty on Monday in Caledonia County Superior Court to misdemeanor charges of drugged or drunk driving and reckless or gross operation of a motor vehicle and was released on conditions by Judge Michael J. Harris.

According to an affidavit filed by St. Johnsbury Police Cpl. Steven Hartwell, Emerson was behind the wheel of a 2006 Volkswagen Jetta that crashed into another car driven by Michael Lovely, 50, at the junction of Memorial Drive and Hastings Hill at 8:29 p.m. on April 6.

Caledonia County Superior Court

Police said that when they arrived they detected the “odor of intoxicants” on Emerson’s breath.

Emerson told police he had consumed three “Twisted Teas” earlier in the day and was driving from Pizza Hut to the Fairbanks Inn on Western Avenue when the crash occurred.

“It should be noted the vehicle had several Twisted Tea cans,” wrote Cpl. Hartwell in his report. “Some were empty and a few unopened.”

Police also suspected Emerson may have been operating under the influence of drugs and obtained his permission to take a sample of his blood.

The blood sample was then sent to the Vermont Forensic Laboratory for testing. Police received the results on April 23 indicating Emerson had tested positive for alcohol, marijuana, methadone and fentanyl.

“It is this officer’s opinion based on the foregoing facts that it is possible that Emerson overdosed on fentanyl and was unconscious at the time of the collision,” wrote Cpl. Hartwell.

If convicted of both charges, Emerson faces a possible sentence of up to four years in prison and over $5,000 in fines.

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