AMESBURY – A Haverhill man who crawled out of his burning car after knocking down a utility pole on Monroe Street in June admitted Monday in Newburyport District Court that he could be found guilty of drunken driving if he went to trial, so a judge suspended his driver's license for 210 days.
Johnathan R. Aveni, 21, of 7 Dow Drive saw a charge of driving while under the influence of alcohol continued without a finding for 18 months and was ordered to pay $600 in fines and fees.
During that time, Aveni must complete an alcohol safety awareness program, complete an Alive at 25 driving program and stay out of trouble with the law. A charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle was continued without a finding for 18 months.
Aveni's Toyota RAV4 was on its roof and on fire at 11:30 p.m. on June 15 when Officer Neil Moody found it and used his portable fire extinguisher to put out the flames, according to court documents.
Downed power lines, a tree and a utility pole surrounded the SUV as Aveni crawled out. He was met by firefighters who brought him to an ambulance.
As he walked to the ambulance with blood all over his face and hands, Aveni appeared unsteady on his feet. While Aveni was placed on a stretcher, Amesbury police Officer Shawn O'Brien asked him if he had been drinking.
"I had a couple," Aveni said, shortly before being taken to Portsmouth Regional Hospital.
At the hospital, Aveni blew a 0.23 blood-alcohol level on a Breathalyzer, almost three times the legal limit. O'Brien then charged him with drunken driving, according to the officer's report.
Officers at the scene estimated that Aveni struck a rock at high speed, launching his SUV into the air and hitting a utility pole. The pole snapped and fell across Monroe Street, making it impassible.
"Aveni's vehicle continued through pole 1 and took down a tree. Aveni's vehicle ended up on its roof while in the fallen tree," O'Brien wrote in his report, adding that police estimated Aveni's car traveled 303 feet in the air before landing.
Aveni hit the pole with such force that it dislodged a connecting pole on Elm Street, sending wires across Monroe and Elm streets. As a result, hundreds of residents near the crash lost power for hours.
A witness told police she believed Aveni was driving about 65 mph. The speed limit for Monroe Street is 30 mph, according to O'Brien's report.