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Driver Charged in Vineyard Haven Ravine Plunge

Erik M. Kelly was arraigned Friday on one count of leaving the scene of property damage after his battered Land Rover was found in a steep ravine along the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in March.

A Vineyard Haven man whose disappearance after a single-car crash set off an overnight search by Tisbury police and fire officers was arraigned Friday in Edgartown District Court.

Erik M. Kelly, 30, is charged with one count of leaving the scene of property damage after the crash in which his Land Rover smashed through a guard rail and into a steep ravine around 1:30 a.m. March 23.

Police arriving at the crash site on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road near Canterbury Lane found Kelly's damaged vehicle upright, backward against a tree, wrote Tisbury officer Joseph Ballotte in a report on the incident.

“The vehicle was heavily damaged on all sides including the windshield, and there was a tree resting on the roof,” Ballotte wrote.

The Land Rover's door was empty and nobody was to be found except the resident of a home a few feet away, said Ballotte, continuing:

“I immediately began searching the vicinity not knowing if the driver had been ejected or had run from the scene ... Six or more officers, Tisbury EMS personnel, and Tisbury fire personnel searched the immediate area for over an hour along with with Officer Trudel and his partner Buster the dog with negative results.”

A check of the Land Rover's registration turned up Kelly's address, where a roommate said he was not at home. Ballotte said he also asked the Dukes County communication center to check with Kelly’s cell phone provider, which said his phone had last been used at a location on a dirt road, Norris Court, within walking distance of the crash site.

Police remained in the area of the crash all night and at around 7 a.m. issued a bulletin for “to stop and hold Erik Kelly for welfare check/questioning in regards to the crash,” Ballotte wrote.

About 8:30 a.m. Kelly contacted police and admitted he “’walked away’ from the crash scene because he was disoriented,” the police report continues.

Kelly told police he drove off the road after swerving to avoid a deer that ran in front of his vehicle, according to the police report.

The officer and EMTs who checked Kelly out for internal injuries after he came forward reported a faint smell of alcohol, but Kelly declined to be tested for blood alcohol content, the report continues.

If convicted, Kelly could be sentenced to from two weeks' to two years' incarceration. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 27. 

For more police and court news on and off the Vineyard, please see our Police & Fire section, available in the News tab above or by clicking here.

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