ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) — An Ivins man was high on methamphetamine and under a protective order regarding domestic abuse when he illegally picked up his two sons and crashed into a power pole in St. George, killing his two children, according to the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
Eric Bowen Babauta, 36, is charged in the Fifth District Court with two counts of negligently operating a vehicle resulting in death (second-degree felony), violation of a protective order — release agreement (class-A misdemeanor), two counts of driving under the influence — passenger under 16 years old (class-A misdemeanor), and reckless driving (class-B misdemeanor).
According to the charging documents, the crash happened around 5:20 p.m. Sunday along the 500 block of North Dixie Drive.
Witnesses at the scene told authorities that the vehicle was heading south on Dixie Drive when it drifted across the left-turn lane, across both northbound lanes, over a curb, and into a large metal power pole.
Additionally, police found that there were no skid marks or signs of braking from the vehicle, which was a black 2017 Nissan Sentra.
Upon arriving at the scene, officers found Babauta in the driver’s seat, trapped inside the car. Babauta’s two small children, Emilio, 9, and Anthony, 4, were in the back seat in critical condition.
“Neither were properly secured in child restraint devices,” court documents state.
Both kids were taken to the hospital by ambulance, while Babauta was extricated from the car. At the scene, officers noticed several indicators that Babauta was impaired.
“Eric had slow and slurred speech,” the complaint states. “His movements were slow and lethargic and he was not making sense. His eyes were glassy and bloodshot, he had constricted pupils and a yellowish, jaundice coloring to his eyes. Eric had a gaunt and sallow look to his face, and erratic and tremor-like movements in his eyes.”
Police said that due to Babauta’s injuries, they were unable to conduct the standard field sobriety tests on him, and he was taken to the hospital.
At the hospital, an officer trained as a drug recognition expert looked over Babauta’s medical screens while Babauta was being treated. The officer said he noticed multiple irregularities in Babauta’s condition that indicated Babauta was under the influence of narcotics.
Babauta was also having extreme mood swings, police said.
“One minute he was sad and concerned and the next he would turn and curse at medical staff and attempt to assault them as well,” court documents state.
While at the hospital, Babauta was told that his eldest son, Emilio, was pronounced dead. Shortly after, Babauta’s other son, Anthony, also died.
According to police, Babauta made multiple comments about drug use, explaining that his drug of choice is methamphetamine. He also told police that he is not allowed to be around his kids when he is high, and swore he had not used so that he could be around them.
Babauta was also reportedly not making any sense when talking with police.
“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,” court documents state.
Babauta claimed he had no memory of hitting the power pole, or even that his two children had been inside the car. He allegedly said he remembered being at his house in Santa Clara, playing football with Emilio and Anthony, then driving them to Dick’s Sporting Goods in St. George. He allegedly said he was driving back to Ivins and had no further memory of what had happened.
After getting consent for blood and urine samples, police found that Babauta tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine.
Based on evidence at the scene and video surveillance of the crash, police believe Babauta was accelerating at a high rate of speed, reaching a speed of around 80 mph in a 40 mph zone at the time of collision.
Police also learned that Babauta was under an active protective order regarding a domestic violence arrest on Oct. 19, which prohibited him from having any contact with the children’s mother. He was given the protective order as part of a jail release agreement.
Officers determined that Babauta had gone to the mother’s home, where he picked up his two sons prior to the fatal collision.
Babauta is a convicted felon and has been arrested in the state of Utah three times since 2014. He has arrests and/or convictions in Utah for failure to give name and assistance at an accident, felony criminal mischief, interference with an arrest, felony aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury, domestic violence in the presence of a child, and domestic violence assault.
Babauta has also been arrested in Oregon 10 times since 2005, and currently has a felony warrant for his arrest out of the state for a parole violation on a robbery conviction, however, the state of Oregon would not extradite him from Utah.
A GoFundMe has been started to help the family of Babauta’s children.
Babauta police have requested that Babauta be held in the Washington County Jail without bail pending a hearing.
No further information is available at this time.