The driver of a red pickup truck involved in a head-on collision in Saco in August told police he had taken two powerful anti-insomnia pills that have been known to induce “sleep-driving,” court records show.

The head-on collision was the second crash involving the red Ford F-150 on Aug. 17. Saco police first responded to a hit-and-run involving a bicyclist on Jenkins Road who was struck in the face by the side mirror of the same truck.

In that incident, the truck crossed the centerline into oncoming traffic and struck the cyclist, who was riding in the opposite direction. The driver left that crash scene, but 34 minutes later, police and ambulances were dispatched to Buxton Road for the three-car crash, where they found 40-year-old Joshua Ellis of South Portland outside the same red pickup, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Biddeford District Court.

Police connected the two crashes because an off-duty police officer near the scene of the hit-and-run saw the truck’s license plate and called in the number, the search warrant said.

No one has been charged in the crashes and police say they are still investigating whether Ellis was behind the wheel when the truck struck the bicyclist.

Ellis admitted to being the driver of the truck during the second crash and denied drinking or using marijuana. He said he took two Lunesta pills “a little earlier” before the 5:40 p.m. wreck, and was on multiple other prescribed medications that he did not name, the search warrant said.

Ellis could not be reached at a phone number listed for him, and he did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to him via social media.

The search warrant filed in court was granted by a judge in Biddeford and sought new blood samples as well as blood and urine samples previously collected by hospital personnel while Ellis was being treated immediately after the crash. The warrant was issued in pursuit of charges that Ellis was driving while under the influence of intoxicants.

Lunesta is approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration to treat insomnia and is recommended to be taken immediately before bedtime. It also comes in only three pill sizes: 1 mg, 2 mg, and 3 mg, according to FDA prescribing information.

At higher dosages, Lunesta has been found to cause drowsiness the day after use, and in some cases, causes unpredictable behavior including “sleep-driving,” with the patient having little or no recollection later of what occurred, according to the FDA. Such unusual behavior is more likely when Lunesta is combined with alcohol, according to the FDA.

At the second crash scene, another officer discovered a bottle of anti-depressant pills prescribed to Ellis in the glove compartment, and found a bud of marijuana and a freshly packed marijuana pipe on Ellis’ front passenger seat, court documents state.

While at the hospital, Ellis exhibited erratic behavior, flipping between moments of calm and agitation, according to the search warrant affidavit.

“At one point even in a neck brace he sat up and pulled all the cords off his chest before calming down and laying back on the bed,” Saco police Officer Kyle Brake wrote in the affidavit. “When speaking at the hospital he stated, ‘Just take me to prison now.’ “

Although Ellis consented to have his blood drawn at the hospital, when staff returned him from a CT scan, Ellis was in four-point restraints, and police were not able to take the blood samples.

Ellis’ driving history shows a 2008 conviction for OUI in which his blood-alcohol level was found to be over the legal limit of 0.08 percent, one speeding ticket and a string of infractions for failure to produce proof of insurance, five instances of failing to display a valid inspection sticker, one instance of driving with a suspended registration, and one instance of failure to report an accident, in February 2017 in Windham.

In addition to the Aug. 17 crash, Ellis also was involved in crash in Saco in May, when he rear-ended a school bus as it stopped before a rail crossing, a police report said. It was unclear whether police cited Ellis in that crash.

There was no information available Monday about the condition of the cyclist who was hit on Jenkins Road.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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