Driver, 18, faces manslaughter charge after boy dies in Phoenix crash

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Jorge Bermudez Tapia By Jennifer Thomas Jorge Bermudez Tapia By Jennifer Thomas
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- An 18-year-old driver faces manslaughter, aggravated assault and endangerment charges after a fatal car wreck Monday morning.

Jorge Bermudez Tapia was booked into jail after being released from a local hospital Wednesday afternoon.

A 3-year-old boy died in the crash involving a Pontiac and Tapia's white Mitsubishi Galant near 36th Street and Southern Avenue. The boy's 5-year-old sister is clinging to life, according to Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump.

Phoenix Fire Capt. Larry Nuñez said there were car seats in the Pontiac, which was driven by a woman.

According to police at the scene, the 3-year-old and a 1-year-old were in the back seat while the 5-year-old was in the front seat. Later information indicated that all three kids were restrained in the back seat.

Part of the confusion came from the fact that concerned bystanders had pulled the kids out of the wrecked car in an effort to help. Paramedics say no matter how much you want to lend assistance, you should never move an injured person unless the vehicle is on fire or greater danger is imminent. Moving them could exacerbate injuries and do more harm than good.

Because of the nature of the crash, paramedics were especially aggressive in their treatment.

"We suspect, a lot of times, that they could have a lot of internal injuries that we may not see," Nuñez explained. "We treat aggressively. … We treat them as if they have life-threatening injuries."

Paramedics performed resuscitation procedures on the youngest two children.

Once all five patients had been transported to local hospitals, police began working to piece together the moments leading up to the crash.

Investigators initially believed the Mitsubishi lost a front tire, which caused it to veer into oncoming traffic. Ground video from the scene showed a tire in the middle of the street, as well as the mangled cars.

Based on information developed throughout their investigation, detectives now believe Tapia might have been impaired, according to Crump.

Investigators said Tapia was heading west on Southern Avenue when he lost control and struck the curb. The vehicle drove through some landscaping before returning to the roadway. The car then crossed into oncoming traffic, hitting the Pontiac carrying the woman and children head on.

Tapia, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from his vehicle.