PROVINCETOWN - The 21-year-old volunteer firefighter who was driving the town's ladder truck when it crashed has been charged with operating under the influence of alcohol.
Police issued a citation to Elias Martinez on Tuesday for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI). Martinez already faces charges of speeding, failure to use care at an intersection and operating a motor vehicle so as to endanger as a result of the same accident. The crash, which occurred on Nov. 9, destroyed the ladder truck and injured both Martinez and a civilian, Emily Forbes, who was riding in the cab at the time. Both were treated and released at Cape Cod Hospital.
The new criminal charge was the result of blood samples taken from Martinez while he was at the hospital. Unconfirmed reports indicate that his blood alcohol level was significantly above the legal limit. Martinez is expected to be formally charged in the next few days.
"The paperwork was taken to Orleans District Court today and he will be charged," Staff Sgt. Warren Tobias said on Tuesday.
If found guilty, it would be Martinez' first OUI offense. As such, the judge has two legal avenues to choose from in the sentencing. The first would involve up to 2.5 years in jail, a fine of not less than $500 or more than $5,000, or both. In addition, the judge could revoke Martinez' license for one year. He would also have to attend an alcohol treatment program if his blood alcohol level was above 0.20.
The judge has a second option for sentencing that would put Martinez on two years probation, suspend his license for between 45 and 90 days and require him to attend an alcohol treatment program.
Martinez also faces potential fines and/or jail time on the negligence charge, including a possible sentence of up to two years in jail, the maximum sentence for negligent or reckless operation of a motor vehicle, which is a misdemeanor.
Fire Chief Mike Trovato said Martinez, who has been a volunteer firefighter on the Provincetown force since he was 13, would remain on unpaid administrative leave. Any further disciplinary action will be postponed until the trial is concluded, he said. However, dismissal from the department if he is found guilty is a possibility.
"If you've been drinking, you're not supposed to show up at the fire station at all. It's very strict. Everybody knows the rules," Trovato said, adding that there had been no disciplinary problems with Martinez since he joined the department eight years ago.
If Martinez is found guilty of some or all of the criminal charges lodged against him, it might impact the financial liability the town now faces to replace the truck. The specialized ladder truck was insured for $350,000 but Trovato said initial estimates indicated it would cost $500,000 to $550,000 to purchase a new truck. Board of selectman chair Michele Couture said that her board has not had a chance yet to discuss the OUI charge. However, the issues of potential personal liability on Martinez' part "certainly bears discussion."
Trovato called the accident and the subsequent criminal charges "very unfortunate for [Martinez'] family and for everyone. It was real bad judgment and a huge mistake." But the fire department will pick up the pieces and go forward, he said.
The accident took place at approximately 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 9. Martinez, who was responsible for taking the truck out on weekly test runs as part of its regular maintenance, told police he was attempting to make a left turn off Route 6 onto Snail Road when the wheel of the ladder truck hit a curb and the truck rolled completely over.
Forbes, a former summer police officer in Provincetown, was also injured. Trovato said departmental rules do not allow civilians to ride in a municipal fire truck.
Republished with permission from The Provincetown Banner