- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

HOUSTON | Police filed intoxication manslaughter charges Sunday against a driver who lost control of his car while using a cell phone, plunging the vehicle into a rain-filled ditch and killing five children inside.

Chanton Jenkins, 32, was in police custody facing four counts of intoxication manslaughter, one charge for each of the children found dead so far, said Houston police spokesman Kese Smith.

Police said a relative told them Mr. Jenkins was the father of three of the victims.

Mr. Smith said Mr. Jenkins failed a field sobriety test after the accident Saturday, which followed torrential rainstorms. The results of a blood alcohol test were pending. Mr. Smith did not know whether Mr. Jenkins had an attorney.

The bodies of three boys — ages 4, 7 and 11 - were found inside the vehicle. The body of a 1-year-old girl was found Sunday, and a police helicopter was being used in the search for the body of a 3-year-old girl.

The car crashed into a tributary about two miles from the point where it feeds into Greens Bayou, a waterway that begins in northern Harris County and flows eastward and then south for about 40 miles before emptying into the Houston Ship Channel.

The driver and another adult, along with a 10-year-old girl, escaped from the vehicle.

It took 2 1/2 hours to find the car in the ditch, which had filled with 9 1/2 feet of fast-moving water. Police said the vehicle was swept 100 feet from the spot where it left the road.

Police said the adult passenger, who is Mr. Jenkins’ brother, told police that Mr. Jenkins was the father of four of the children, including the girl who escaped.

Mr. Jenkins’ brother also told police that rain was falling heavily when Mr. Jenkins answered a cell phone. He said Mr. Jenkins lost control when he hung up the phone, and the car flew down an embankment into the ditch, according to police.

At least 30 family members and friends searched for the girls’ bodies Sunday, walking with police officers along the grassy tributary, by then no longer filled with raging waters.

“We know they are not going to be found alive. But we’re hoping that they can just find them,” Cheri Smith said before the 1-year-old was found. Ms. Smith’s cousin is the mother of the two little girls. The girls, who were sisters, were cousins of the other children in the car, she said.

She said the family was focused on the search and not the circumstances that led to the accident.

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