NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- An assistant fire chief with the Bennington Fire Department has been suspended from that post and from the department following an arrest Friday for driving while under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of a crash.
Bennington Police Chief and Public Safety Director Paul Doucette said Monday he was "embarrassed" by the actions of Chad Prentiss, a longtime member of the fire department.
"It’s unfortunate. Assistant Fire Chief Chad Prentiss spends a lot of volunteer time working with the Bennington Fire Department, but his actions are deplorable and it’s not going to be tolerated," Doucette said.
Left the scene
Police received a call Friday, at about 9:20 p.m., for a crash on Gage Street. The vehicle involved left the scene, however.
"The vehicle that was involved, described as a pickup truck, left the scene prior to police getting there. When the officers arrived they could see where a vehicle had crashed into a utility pole," Doucette said. "The front tire from the vehicle was actually in the street and Š the officers were able to find evidence of gouges and scrapes in the roadway where whomever crashed had left the scene of the crash and drove away. They followed the gouges and the scrapes in the road for 0.7 miles to a residence on Webb Street Š where they located the vehicle."
Doucette said police found the green 2001 Chevrolet pickup there with a "Bennington Fire" decal across the back. Prentiss was located and admitted his involvement in the crash, according to Doucette.
"He advised that he had been consuming alcohol and had been operating the vehicle," Doucette said.
Prentiss provided a preliminary breath sample, which showed a blood-alcohol content of .19 percent, Doucette said, more than twice the legal limit. Prentiss was then taken into custody and brought to the police station.
"While processing, Mr. Prentiss was cooperative. However, he did refuse to submit to an evidentiary test once he was here at the Bennington Police Department. Based on the fact that he has a prior DUI conviction in the state of Vermont, ultimately, he may be charged with the crime of criminal refusal," Doucette said.
Prentiss has been charged by police with driving while under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of a crash. His license will be suspended for a minimum of six months because he refused to provide an evidentiary sample at the police station, according to Doucette.
Doucette, who oversees the fire department as public safety director, said he met with Fire Chief Steve Crawford. The two followed the fire department’s bylaws in determining how to address Prentiss’ membership in the department.
"He has been suspended as a member of the Bennington Fire Department and as the assistant fire chief. The suspension will remain in effect until the conclusion of the criminal court action and his status with the fire department will be reviewed then. We’re, ultimately, at this point, following the Bennington Fire Department bylaws Š and the fire chief, in meeting with me, decided that this was something that needed to be dealt with swiftly," Doucette said.
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