AUBURN – An off-duty Auburn patrolman was hospitalized with a deep laceration to his head, following a two-car collision late Wednesday night.

Patrolman Mitchell Sweetser was bleeding profusely from his head, after he apparently fell asleep at the wheel and collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Hampshire Street and Union Street By-Pass, said police.

“I’ve known him for 15 years and I didn’t recognize him at the scene,” said Sgt. Rielly Bryant, the investigating officer for the Androscoggin Sheriff’s Department. “It wasn’t until we ran the plates that we realized who it was.”

The crash left Sweetser, 41, unconscious at the scene. He was taken to Central Maine Medical Center where he was treated for a deep laceration to the side of his head, said Bryant. He was released about 7 p.m. Thanksgiving night.

Bryant said his preliminary investigation indicates that Sweetser fell asleep at the wheel as he was driving to his Auburn home around 11:30 p.m. when he failed to stop for the flashing red light at that intersection. He was traveling west on Hampshire Street in his Dodge Neon and struck a Nissan Frontier pick-up truck coming south on Union Street By-Pass.

The driver of the truck, Nathan Taylor, 25, of Auburn, and his passenger, Amber Cyr, 20, of Hartford, both complained of soreness from the impact of the airbags and seatbelts, said Bryant, but refused treatment.

It appears speed wasn’t a factor.

“He was going 20 or 25 miles per hour through the intersection, according to Nathan,” said Bryant. He added that Sweetser will be tested for alcohol, as is routine in a case such as this.

Bryant spoke with Sweetser at his home. The 18-year veteran of the department said he didn’t recall the accident, but did remember driving toward his home.

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