Police: Man inhaled chemical cleaner while driving in Haverhill

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May 10—HAVERHILL — A Texas man passing through Haverhill was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Police said he was also doing some wrong things at that time, including driving over a traffic cone at the site of a police detail. That drew the attention of Haverhill's retired deputy police chief, who was working the detail, a police report said.

The retired deputy chief said he noticed the man had a can of Dust-Off between his legs when he stopped the car because the traffic cone was under the vehicle.

Dust-off is a refrigerant-based propellant that is typically used for blowing dust off of things like computer keyboards and photographic equipment.

Police said they investigated and determined the man was inhaling chemical vapors from the can of compressed gas to get high. After he failed a field sobriety test, officers charged him with driving under the influence of drugs and other offenses, the report said.

Police said Colby Festner, 37, of Houston told them he was using the can of Dust-Off to dry his car's back seat, which appeared to have gotten wet because a rear window was left open during an earlier rain storm.

Police charged Festner with operating under the influence of drugs (third offense), possession of a Class E drug (Gabapentin), inhaling a toxic substance and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Gabapentin is a prescription drug typically used to relive nerve pain caused by shingles, and also to prevent and control seizures.

Festner was arraigned on the charges May 3 in Haverhill District Court, where Judge Cesar Archilla set bail at $1,000, which Festner later posted, court officials said. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 8.

According to a police report on file at the court, on April 30 at 9:44 a.m. several patrol officers were dispatched to the area of 786 River St. on a report of an impaired driver. The report was called in by retired Deputy Police Chief Anthony Haugh, who was working a road detail there, the report said.

According to the report, when officers arrived, they found a Toyota Camry with Georgia license plates stopped in the middle of the road, behind a Haverhill police car that was being used for the road detail.

Haugh told the officers that Festner drove into a traffic cone being used on the detail and that the cone was stuck under the front of his car, the report said.

Haugh also said that when Festner stopped the car, he was seen with a can of Dust-Off between his legs. Haugh said the can was cold and coated in frost, a sign that it had just been used, according to the report.

Haugh told the officers that as Festner tried to explain what he was doing, he reached for a paper bag on the passenger's seat that contained another can of Dust-Off, the report said.

Festner told police that his back seats were "soaked" and that he was trying to dry them off with the cans of compressed air, the report said. Police said the driver's side back seat and door were covered in water droplets, and that it appeared the car window had been left open during a rain storm.

Festner told police that he was on his way to the Hampton Inn, but missed his turn and drove over the traffic cone, the report said.

Police noted in the report that while they questioned Festner, he appeared fidgety, was talking fast and fumbling his words, was sweating from his forehead and had watery eyes.

Police said they performed a series of field sobriety tests on Festner and that based on the results, they arrested him on a charge of operating under the influence of drugs (inhalants).

Police said they searched Festner and found 11 Dramamine pills. During a search of the car, officers found a yellow pill which they later identified as Gabapentin, according to the report.

Festner told police he was prescribed the Gabapentin for pain caused by a previous car accident, but that he did not have the prescription with him, the report said.

Police said Festner's criminal record includes a first offense driving while intoxicated charge, to which he pleaded no contest to in 2005 in Texas, and a second offense driving while under the influence of alcohol/drugs charge that he was convicted of in 2018 in California.