A 23-year-old West Tisbury man is facing a felony motor vehicle charge after an early morning crash Saturday that injured him and seriously injured his passenger.
Nathaniel Schneider of West Tisbury is being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in serious bodily injury, a felony, after a 2015 Subaru XV Crossover he drove crashed into a tree on State Road in West Tisbury as he allegedly fled from the West Tisbury Police. The accident seriously injured the 22-year-old passenger, who had to be extricated from the wreck by West Tisbury Rescue through use of hydraulic tools, West Tisbury Fire Chief Manuel Estrella III said. According to a police report, the passenger, Alfred Pace, was taken from the scene by ambulance to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. From there he was taken by ambulance to a Boston hospital, hospital spokeswoman Rachel Vanderhoop said. Mr. Schneider was also taken to the Island’s hospital.
Mr. Schneider drove by West Tisbury Special Police Officer Dan Durawa on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road shortly after 12:30 am Saturday, Police Sgt. Skipper Manter said. Officer Durawa was on patrol in the opposite direction, and caught Mr. Schneider on radar. He was allegedly driving 63 mph in a 35 mph zone, Sgt. Manter said.
Officer Durawa pursued Mr. Schneider, and pulled him over on Scotchman’s Bridge Lane at 12:46 am, Sgt. Garrison Vieira told The Times. Officer Durawa took Mr. Schneider’s license, and allegedly noted slurred speech and the odor of alcohol. Per his police report, Officer Durawa noted Mr. Schneider appeared glassy-eyed and that “a strong odor of burnt marijuana” emanated from the vehicle. He also noticed a plastic bag on the center console that held a “green leafy substance consistent with marijuana.” Mr. Schneider was unable to locate his registration, according to Officer Durawa’s report. Officer Durawa was then joined by Sgt. Vieira, whom he had called for assistance. The two police officers were poised to ask Mr. Schneider to exit the Subaru for field sobriety tests when they heard the Subaru slide into gear. Mr. Schneider allegedly sped off, turned right onto State Road, and accelerated rapidly, headed down-Island. The officers pursued and radioed the county communications center to alert Tisbury Police that Mr. Schneider’s Subaru might pass their way. They came upon the wreckage of the Subaru approximately 6/10ths of a mile from where Mr. Schneider had been pulled over, Sgt. Vieira said.
Per his report, Officer Durawa approached the wreck and called out to the driver and passenger:
“I yelled out to the occupants to see if they were okay and what injuries they may have suffered. The passenger did not respond. Schneider replied, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’” After Officer Durawa was able to open the driver’s-side door, Mr. Schneider exited and began to jump up and down, the report states. Officer subsequently handcuffed him for fear he would flee, the report states. Later at Martha’s VIneyard Hospital, Officer Durawa inquired if Mr. Schneider would be released shortly. He was told Mr. Schneider would be kept through the night “due to the severity of the crash and for ‘detox,’” according to the report.
Sgt. Vieira estimated that the Subaru and debris from it hit two or three telephone poles in addition to the tree. The car may have skimmed the first pole with its bumper, but Sgt. Vieira noted that marks on that pole may have come from another vehicle at another time. The Subaru then collided with the tree on the passenger’s side door and went airborne, flipping at least once. The force of that collision catapulted a piece of the car’s tire assembly into a second telephone pole. The car then struck a third telephone pole and came to a stop in an upright position. Sgt. Vieira pointed out that no skid marks were evident on the asphalt leading up to the crash site.
“They are lucky to be alive. It was a bad crash,” Sgt. Vieira said.
In addition to the felony charge, Mr. Schneider was charged or cited with failure to stop for a police officer, marked lanes violation, number plate sticker violation, speeding, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle — all of which are either civil infractions or misdemeanors, Sgt. Manter and Sgt Vieira said. Mr. Schneider was released from the hospital at some point later in the day on Saturday. He was subsequently interviewed at the West Tisbury Police Station just before 7:30 pm. During his interview, in response to being asked why he fled, Mr. Schneider said “that when the second police car pulled up [Sgt. Vieira’s vehicle], he had ‘like a panic attack,’” Sgt. Vieira’s report states.
In lieu of an arrest, Mr. Schneider will be issued a summons to appear at Edgartown District Court to face the charges. He has the right to request a magistrate’s hearing. Magistrate hearings, which are private, are held to determine probable cause.
Editor’s note: Mr. Schneider was never officially charged with OUI. Police brought the charges, but Mr. Schneider requested a probable cause hearing before a magistrate. According to court records, the clerk found no evidence presented of impaired driving and the charge did not move forward. Mr. Schneider admitted sufficient facts to failure to stop for a police officer and pleaded guilty to negligent operation of a motor vehicle. He was found not responsible for speeding, marked lanes violation, and operating without an inspection sticker.