Natividad de Jesus Hernandez pulled his van into the gravel drive of the under-construction house this morning in hopes of finding some scrap material that maybe he could sell.
Whether he found any was unclear but what he lost was priceless.
The state Highway Patrol says that Hernandez didn’t buckle in his 4-year-old son, Angel Gustbabo Hernandez, before he eased his Chevrolet Venture back onto Brock Road. And as the van headed northbound about 11 a.m. just a few feet from the new gravel driveway, the little boy grabbed the handle of the sliding door and opened it, authorities say.
Angel tumbled out and fell to the road. The van then hit him, killing him.
That stretch of Brock Road, just off Industrial Parkway in Jerome Township, has a row of seven houses in various stages of construction. One nearby worker heard the commotion and another saw what happened. Together they called 911.
In that recording, the caller tells the 911 dispatcher that a boy has been hit and a man who appeared to be his father was “holding him pretty tight.” He tells the dispatcher that there was no point in CPR because it was clear the boy was already gone.
Scott Anspach, a Union County deputy sheriff who was first on the scene, is a trained paramedic. Knowing only that a child had been hit and nothing else, Anspach and the other first responders saw a man cradling the boy and they grabbed and whisked him away to a waiting ambulance to try, in vain, to save him.
In the ensuing chaos, Hernandez, 30, of Columbus, jumped back into his van and left, State Patrol Lt. Molly Clemens said.
At first, authorities had no idea who the child was or who they were looking for. They issued a warning for everyone to be on the lookout for the minivan, described only as a red or maroon mid-1990s Oldsmobile.
The patrol told OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital, where Angel had been taken and was later pronounced dead, to alert them if any relatives showed up. Within an hour or so, a hospital employee called the patrol to say the father was there, Patrol Sgt. Ty Skaggs said.
Patrol investigators, troopers and Clemens went to Dublin Methodist and interviewed Hernandez, who told them what happened, Skaggs said.
Clemens said Hernandez, who doesn’t speak English very well, said he left because he was confused, that the paramedics had taken his son and he didn’t know what was happening or what he was supposed to do.
A dash-cam video from the sheriff's department shows Hernandez waiting for a few moments after the ambulance carrying his son speeds away, then he gets back into his van and takes off in the same direction as the ambulance.
Hernandez has not been charged; Clemens said the investigation continues.
“These things,” she said, “are always tragic.”
Ohio expanded its child-safety laws in 2009 to require that children younger than 4 years old or less than 40 pounds must use a child-safety seat. Children 4 to 7 who are less than 57 inches tall must use a booster seat.
Clemens said this investigation will continue for some time, but added that it doesn’t appear as though drugs or alcohol were involved. There were other passengers in the van, the patrol said, and Clemens said they are still sorting out the relationships. WBNS-TV (Channel 10) said that at least some of the others in the van were children.
A few of the construction workers at the houses along Brock Road didn’t want to talk to reporters. Clemens, though, said the witnesses were cooperative and that everyone, especially the first responders, was deeply affected by what happened.
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BELOW is the first version of this story:
Authorities say the father of a child run over by a van and killed in Union County on Thursday morning showed up at Dublin Methodist Hospital about an hour later and admitted that he was the one who had hit the boy and fled the scene.
State Highway Patrol investigators are still trying to put together exactly what happened about 11:05 today along Brock Road, but Sgt. Ty Skaggs said hospital employees called the patrol after the boy’s father arrived about noon.
The child, who is believed to be about 3 years old and whose name has not yet been released, somehow fell from the van that had, according to a witness, just pulled away from a construction site along Brock Road near the intersection of Industrial Parkway. The van then hit him.
Six houses are under construction along that stretch and a construction worker from one of the houses saw what happened and called 9-1-1, Patrol Lt. Molly Clemens said.
The child’s father stayed with him until Union County deputy sheriffs arrived and, according to the 9-1-1 caller, was “holding him pretty tight.” The caller said no CPR was started because there clearly was no use.
The responding deputies, who are also paramedics and were aware only that a child had been hit, immediately grabbed the boy to race him away for care. In the ensuing confusion, the father jumped back in the van and drove away, authorities said.
Skaggs said the father is being interviewed by Clemens and an investigator at the hospital Thursday afternoon.
Skaggs said investigators canvassed the area immediately after the incident to try and determine who saw what and that work continues.
Other men working on building the houses on Brock Road did not want to talk to reporters.
Clemens said it was an emotional scene for everyone, but especially for the deputies who arrived first.
“These things,” she said, “are always tragic.”
By Holly Zachariah - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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