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Firefighter remains in critical condition after fall

CHARLESTOWN — Sean Newton, 23, of Wakefield remains in critical condition after falling early Sunday near a pathway at the The Charlestown Rathskeller tavern.

Rathskeller manager Ryan Pincince said Charlestown police arrived at the restaurant at about 12:30 a.m. to check on a noise complaint and found Newton lying face-down, unconscious and suffering from severe facial injuries.

“It was an accident,” Pincince said. “All his friends were inside. His tab was still open. He only had two drinks on his tab.”

After assessing the extent of Newton’s injuries, members of the Charlestown Emergency Medical Services team called a Life Star helicopter to transport him to the trauma division of Rhode Island Hospital.

Hospital spokeswoman Gail Carvelli said his condition had not changed since he was airlifted to the hospital.

“He’s still in critical condition,” she said.

Newton, a Woonsocket firefighter, was arrested earlier this year on a charge of drunken driving. He was stopped by police on March 16 on Route 1 in South Kingstown after several motorists reported that a driver had struck a guardrail near the Spartina Cove subdivision. Newton, who had stopped his car in the parking lot of a nearby church, was wearing his uniform.

The police reported that Newton first said he was on his way to a hazmat incident in Woonsocket and that he had been texting a co-worker. An officer noticed that Newton was having difficulty speaking and that he smelled strongly of alcohol. When Newton refused a field sobriety test, he was arrested and charged with drunken driving and refusing a breath test.

Robert Craven, a lawyer who prosecuted the case for the Town of South Kingstown, said that Newton’s refusal of the sobriety test made it almost impossible to prove that he was driving drunk. “In instances where someone refuses it, it is extremely difficult to prove that someone was over the limit,” he said.

Rather than appear in District Court, Newton elected to go before the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, where he pleaded guilty to refusing to take a Breathalyser. Newton’s choice to appear before the tribunal resulted in a six-month suspension of his driver’s license, but it also reduced his offense to a civil matter and, therefore, there is no criminal record. Newton was not suspended from the Woonsocket Fire Department as a result of the incident.

Pincince said Newton had come to the tavern several times before.

“For the times we’ve seen him in here, he’s always been quiet. Zero issues. Not boisterous or loud,” he said.

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