ST. GEORGE — The driver involved in a fatal crash on North Dixie Drive that killed two children on Sunday is facing multiple charges, including DUI.
File photo of emergency personnel tending to the scene of a fatal single-vehicle crash that killed two children on Dixie Drive in St. George, Utah, Oct. 29, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News
On Monday, 36-year-old Eric Bowen Babauta was formally charged with multiple offenses related to Sunday’s crash, including two second-degree felony counts of negligently operating a vehicle resulting in death. The suspect also faces four misdemeanor charges that include two counts of DUI with a minor in the vehicle, one count of violating a protective order and reckless driving, according to charging documents filed with the court on Tuesday.
The case was filed following a single-vehicle crash reported Sunday involving a black four-door Nissan Sentra that crashed into a power pole near 575 North Dixie Drive in St. George. The incident was reported to emergency dispatch by several witnesses at the scene.
Responders arrived to find the driver trapped inside the vehicle. Two children, ages 4 and 9, already had been removed from the vehicle by witnesses and passersby who reportedly broke the car windows and were performing life-saving measures on the youngsters. These efforts were later described by St. George Police Officer Tiffany Mitchell as “heroic.”
Both children were transported to St. George Regional Hospital by ambulance in critical condition where they later died from their injuries.
Back at the scene, firefighters worked for nearly an hour to free the driver, Babauta, from the wreckage.
Authorities say Babauta’s speech was slurred and he appeared lethargic. While speaking to police, Babauta “was not making sense,” the officer notes in the report, adding that Babauta’s eyes were glassy and bloodshot and his pupils were constricted. He also had what appeared to be a gaunt and sallow look to his face, as well as erratic and tremor-like movements in his eyes — all indicators of impairment, police said.
Babauta’s injuries, however, prevented officers from conducting a field sobriety test at the scene. After being freed from the wreckage, he was transported to the hospital by ambulance.
Based on the severity of the crash, the accident reconstruction team was called out to conduct an investigation. While surveying the scene, investigators determined there were no skid marks or signs of braking, findings that were supported by witness statements and the 911 callers.
The initial statements reported that the Nissan was heading south on Dixie Drive when the driver drifted across the left turn-only lane and both northbound lanes of travel before jumping a curb and slamming into a large metal power pole.
File photo of the St. George Accident Reconstruction Team working the scene of a fatal single-vehicle crash that killed two children on Dixie Drive in St. George, Utah, Oct. 29, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News
Based on physical evidence on the scene and video surveillance of the crash, investigators determined that Babauta was accelerating as he headed south on Dixie Drive, which has a posted speed limit of 40 mph. At the time of impact, Babauta had reached speeds of approximately 80 mph, the report states.
The investigation also revealed that neither child was properly restrained at the time of the collision.
Investigators say Babauta was found to be in violation of a protective order by picking up the children prior to the crash. Babauta was issued the protective order as part of his release from jail on Oct. 19, after he was arrested for misdemeanor assault and domestic violence in the presence of a child. The protective order was still active and the case is still pending.
At the hospital, officers said Babauta “kept asking where he was,” and was not making any sense. Babauta reportedly told officers he did not remember hitting the power pole and that the last thing he remembered was playing football with his two children at his home before heading to a sporting goods store on River Road.
He said he remembered driving back to Ivins but “had no further memory of what had occurred,” according to the report.
A presumptive urinalysis later revealed the driver reportedly tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine, and while Babauta was advised of the results at the hospital, officers were unable to arrest him or transport him to jail due to his injuries.
On Monday, the charges were filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office and the case has been assigned to District Judge Jay Winward.
This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
St. George News reporter Alysha Lundgren responded to the scene and contributed to this report.
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