CHELSEA — Police have arrested a man they said fled and caused an hours-long search Tuesday after crashing his sport utility vehicle on River Road.

Walter B. Hawkins, 23, of South Carolina, was arrested around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at a relative’s house in South Gardiner, said State Police Lt. Aaron Hayden. Hawkins was charged with operating without a license, refusing to submit to arrest or detention, failure to stop for a law enforcement officer and leaving the scene of a property damage accident.

The roughly four-hour search for Hawkins began around 11 a.m. Tuesday after Trooper Mark Ferreira tried to pull over a green SUV on River Road because of a vehicle defect.

The vehicle went off the road and into some trees when it tried to make a left turn into a driveway, Hayden said.

“A male got out the passenger side and ran toward the river,” he said.

Ferreira lost sight of the fleeing man. Police used a dog to track him for about one and a half miles, but the track stopped near Skyline Drive.

About two hours after the crash, police received a report of a man matching the subject’s description trying to break into a vehicle at 885 River Road. Police responded and a dog was able to pick up a new track, but it ended again without the man being found, Hayden said.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which happened to have a boat in the area on the Kennebec River, scanned the shoreline for the man. Gardiner police assisted with the search in that city.

“If it is who we believe, it may be he does have some issues with his driver’s license status,” Hayden said Tuesday afternoon.

Hawkins was arrested without incident a couple hours later.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642[email protected]

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