Police: Man who fled fiery crash was wanted for domestic strangulation

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A driver who fled the scene of a fiery Feb. 7 car crash on Laurel Hill Avenue was wanted by Woonsocket Police on a charge of domestic strangulation, according to Cranston Police.

Richard B. Gobern III, 29, of 70 Newland Avenue, Apt. 3, Woonsocket, was taken into custody on the arrest warrant and a bench warrant issued from Superior Court. He is additionally charged with duty to stop/accident resulting in personal injury, reckless driving, driving after denial/suspension/revocation of license and numerous traffic violations.

Gobern was arraigned Feb. 8 in Third Division District Court and ordered held on $25,000 bail with surety.

According to a press release from Cranston Maj. Todd Patalano, Gobern fled on foot after a red 2017 Jeep Compass he was operating struck a 2015 Toyota Highlander, hit a retaining wall and burst into flames shortly before 9:30 p.m. He reportedly sustained a severe laceration to his head, and was arrested after being found hiding behind a home near the intersection of Roland and Franklin avenues.

Three female occupants of the red Jeep sustained non-life threatening injuries and were able to exit the vehicle, according to the release. Injuries to the operator of the Toyota Highlander were described as minor. All of the parties involved, including Gobern, were transported to Rhode Island Hospital for treatment.

Police say the events leading up to the crash began at approximately 9:19 p.m., when an officer observed the red Jeep operating erratically in the area of Laurel Hill and Farmington avenues.

The vehicle “abruptly tried to flee the area navigating through the Farmington Avenue and Terrace Avenue area,” the release states. “The officer was not in pursuit and momentarily lost sight of the vehicle as it eventually made its way onto Maplewood Avenue.”

The red Jeep is said to have continued on Maplewood Avenue westbound and attempted to cross Laurel Hill Avenue “at a high rate of speed,” at which point it struck the Toyota Highlander in a “broadside” collision. The Highlander was “redirected into and then up onto a retaining wall” at 437 Laurel Hill Ave., the release states. The Jeep then struck the same retaining wall and burst into flames.

Cranston Fire Department personnel extinguished the blaze.

According to the release, speed is believed to be a factor in the crash. The Cranston Police Accident Reconstruction Team is investigating the incident. 

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