THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Man held in fatal crash had previous OUI charge

By Emily Sweeney
Globe Staff / March 6, 2011

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A Melrose man accused of causing a crash that killed a taxi driver and seriously injured a child in Lynnfield Friday night had been charged once before with operating under the influence of drugs, according to State Police.

William J. Halpin III, 25, is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow in Peabody District Court on charges including motor vehicle homicide while under the influence of narcotics.

State Police would not release additional information about the defendant’s previous OUI charge. “I do not have details of — nor could I pass them along if I did — his record, but a prerequisite for the OUI second charge is a prior like offense,’’ said State Police spokesman David Procopio.

State Police say Halpin was driving a sports utility vehicle northbound on Route 1 in Lynnfield just after 8 p.m. when he entered the breakdown lane and struck Victor Vargas, a 42-year-old taxi driver from Lynn and father of two. Vargas was pronounced dead at North Shore Medical Center Union Hospital in Lynn.

According to State Police, Halpin tossed what appeared to be several small bags of marijuana from his vehicle after the fatal crash, which closed the northbound lanes of Route 1 in Lynnfield for three hours.

Vargas had parked his taxi on the side of the road because he had been involved in a minor fender-bender with a 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt. Vargas and the driver of the Cobalt were standing between the parked vehicles in the breakdown lane when Halpin, who was driving a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica, struck the Cobalt and then hit Vargas.

Troopers dispatched to the scene found Vargas outside his cab. A 6-year-old boy sitting inside the Cobalt suffered a serious injury to his arm and shoulder. He was transported to Union Hospital, then transferred to Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Vargas was married and had an 8-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter. He had been working for Garcia’s Taxi of Lynn since December.

“He was a nice, nice driver. . . . A good person,’’ said Pablo Garcia, owner of Garcia’s Taxi. “He always came to work every day. We are very sad. It’s a tragedy.’’

Garcia said he planned to start a foundation in Vargas’s memory at Eastern Bank.

The driver of the Cobalt — 30-year-old Patricia Ediamen of North Andover — was not hurt. The other two passengers in the Cobalt — a Framingham woman and a 3-year-old boy — were also not injured.

Halpin was arrested at the scene of the accident and charged with motor vehicle homicide while under the influence; operating under the influence of drugs—second offense; possession of a Class D substance with intent to distribute; speeding; and a marked lanes violation.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com.