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Utah dad was high when he crashed, killing 2 children he wasn’t supposed to have, charges say

By Pat Reavy

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    ST. GEORGE, Utah (KSL) — Criminal charges were filed Monday against an Ivins, Washington County, man who police say was impaired and driving recklessly when he crashed into a pole, resulting in the deaths of the two children in the car with him.

Eric Bowen Babauta, 36, is charged in 5th District Court with two counts of negligently operating a vehicle resulting in death, a second-degree felony; violation of a protective order and two counts of DUI with a passenger under the age of 16 in the car, class A misdemeanors; and reckless driving, a class B misdemeanor.

About 5:20 p.m. Sunday, St. George police responded to a car that had crashed into a power pole on Dixie Drive.

“The driver of the vehicle drifted across the left turn-only lane, across both northbound lanes of travel, over a curb, and into a large metal power pole,” according to charging documents, which also say “there were no skid marks or signs of braking from the suspect vehicle.”

Two children, ages 9 and 4 — who were not properly secured in the vehicle, nor were they supposed to be with Babauta, according to police — were taken to a local hospital in critical condition. Both children later died due to their injuries. They were identified in a GoFundMe campaign* as 4-year-old Anthony and 9-year-old Emilio from the Romero family.

Babauta, who was driving, had to be extricated from the vehicle.

“On scene, officers observed numerous indicators of impairment from Eric. Eric had slow and slurred speech. His movements were slow and lethargic and he was not making sense,” the charges state.

Based on Babauta’s vital signs and his “major mood swings,” investigators believed he was under the influence of drugs, according to the charges.

“When officers were speaking with Eric at the hospital, he made multiple comments about drug use. He explained his drug of choice is methamphetamine. He claimed he is not allowed to be around his kids when he is high and swore he has not used so he could be around his kids. As (an officer) spoke with him, he was not making any sense. He kept asking where he was at, what vehicle he was driving, and claimed he did not know what kids were in his vehicle or where he was going. Eric claimed to have no memory of hitting the power pole, or even that two of his children had been in the vehicle,” the charges state.

A blood test showed meth and amphetamine in Babauta’s system, according to police. Police believe he was traveling approximately 80 mph on the 40-mph road when he hit the pole.

Police say Babauta had an active protective order against him at the time of the crash, preventing him from having any contact with the children’s mother, the charges state. Investigators, however, say he went to her home prior to the fatal incident and picked up the children.

Prosecutors say Babauta has drug and weapons convictions in Arizona and Oregon and has been arrested in Oregon 10 times since 2005. He was arrested on Oct. 19 by the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department for investigation of domestic violence.

“Further, there is an active protective order listing Eric as the respondent and his wife as the petitioner that prohibits him from seeing the two children who died in his vehicle,” charging documents state.

In 2014, Babauta was arrested and accused of ramming vehicles in St. George on purpose.

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