Police to charge driver in crash that killed five
HOUSTON - Police planned to charge a driver suspected of being intoxicated when he lost control of his car while using his cellphone, plunging the vehicle into a rain-filled ditch where five young passengers died, a spokesman said yesterday.
Charges of intoxication manslaughter were being prepared against Chanton Jenkins, 32, Houston police spokesman Kese Smith said.
Smith said Jenkins failed a field sobriety test after the Saturday afternoon crash, which followed torrential rainstorms. The results of a blood alcohol test were pending. Smith did not know whether Jenkins had an attorney.
The bodies of three boys - ages 4, 7, and 11 - were found inside the vehicle. A body believed to be that of a 1-year-old girl was found yesterday, and a search was continuing for the body of a 3-year-old girl.
The car crashed into a tributary about 2 miles from the point where it feeds into Greens Bayou, a waterway that begins in northern Harris County and flows east and then south for about 40 miles before emptying into the Houston Ship Channel.
The driver and another adult escaped from the vehicle, along with a 10-year-old girl.
It took 2 1/2 hours to find the car in the ditch, which had filled with 9.5 feet of fast-moving water, and it was close to midnight before the current had eased enough for a dive team to recover the boys' bodies and discover that the girls had been swept away, Smith said. Police said the vehicle was swept 100 feet from the spot where it left the road.
Police said the adult passenger, who is Jenkins's brother, told police Jenkins was the father of four of the children, including the girl who escaped.
Jenkins's brother told police rain was falling heavily when Jenkins answered a cellphone. He said Jenkins lost control when he ended the call and the car flew down an embankment into the ditch, Smith said.
Family members and friends searched for the girls' bodies yesterday.
Cheri Smith, whose cousin is the mother of the two little girls, said the family was focused on the search and not the circumstances that led to the accident.