Pastor accused of driving drunk, hitting pedestrian in Warwick

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The pastor of two Coventry parishes was arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence after police say he hit a pedestrian in Warwick Sunday night.

Jacek Ploch, 38, allegedly hit the man while he was crossing Airport Road in the area of Post Road.

“We heard a big thud in the road and I flew out of the car because I was like, ‘somebody got hit,’ but I didn’t see exactly how he got hit, he just flew in the air,” Michelle D’Amico recalled.

The victim was identified Monday afternoon as Jonathan Freeman, 38, of Warwick, who at last check was listed in stable condition at Rhode Island Hospital. Police say he wasn’t in a crosswalk when he was struck.

D’Amico said she helped divert traffic to make sure the victim wasn’t hit a second time.

“I put my hands out and said, ‘stop, stop, stop,'” she added. “They stopped and screeched and about three or four cars showed up, and that’s when they all said that they were nurses or they were certified CPR and they checked him immediately.”

According to police, Ploch showed signs of impairment following the crash and subsequently failed field sobriety tests. A breathalyzer test later revealed he had a blood alcohol content of .195, which is more than twice the legal limit.

Ploch was charged with DUI and released with a summons to appear in court in August.

The Diocese of Providence confirmed Monday that he is the pastor at St. Vincent de Paul and Our Lady of Czenstochowa in Coventry.

“Our thoughts and prayers go first of all to the victim of the accident on Airport Road. We pray for a full and speedy recovery,” the Diocese said in a statement.

“While Father Jacek Ploch has served this diocese and his parishes well, spiritual leaders must always strive to set a good example for others,” the statement continued. “Whenever a priest is involved in an unfortunate situation like this, he is subject to the consequences of civil law, and potentially to canonical sanctions as well.”

Monday evening, the Diocese released a followup statement saying Ploch had been placed on administrative leave.

“During this time, he is not permitted to minister as a priest,” the Diocese wrote. “Arrangements are now being made to provide for the ongoing pastoral care of the two parishes.”

The crash remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact Warwick police at (401) 468-4293.

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