The witness, a 36-year-old resident of Flagler Beach, was traveling on State Road 100 when he saw something one does not expect, or want, to see on a road: as an older silver sedan made a U-turn ahead of him, at the intersection with Old Kings Road, the rear passenger door swung open, and a child was catapulted out and onto the pavement.
The car kept going west, according to the witness.
It was 6:47 this morning. The witness, who was on his way to work, immediately pulled over, cared for the child, and called 911. “I have him with me, the car has not come back,” the witness told the dispatcher.
“The 3-year-old just fell out of the car?” the dispatcher asked.
Audio: The 911 Call
“The back door was open, I see this kid fall out, so I got over as much as I could and went and grabbed him and am sitting with him until someone can get here, but nobody has come back,” the witness said, describing the car’s trajectory, going west. The child had a few scratches on his finger. “I think he got pretty lucky, but he’s got little scratches on his hand.” When paramedics evaluated the boy, they treated him for a cut on his right hand’s finger and scrapes on his right leg.
Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the scene. As they were speaking with the witness, the other car returned, seven minutes after the witness placed the call to 911, nine or 10 minutes after the child fell.
Jacob Santos, 19, was at the wheel. He had no driver’s license. The car had an expired tag since 2019. The vehicle had no insurance. Desiree Rodriguez, 26, Santos’s brother and a resident of Fort Lauderdale, was in the passenger seat. There were three other children in the back seat, ages 5, 7 and 9. The child who’d been ejected is 4. None were secured in child-car seats. None were wearing seat belts. Their mother and uncle had not realized that the 4-year-old child had been ejected until the other children started wondering aloud where he had disappeared.
There were also puppies in the back seat.
“At no time did she seem upset or remorseful at the fact that her child fell out of the vehicle while driving,” Rodriguez’s arrest report states. She refused to have the child transported to the hospital, though in such situations a concussion is possible.
There was a smell of marijuana in the car, according to the arrest report, enabling the deputies to conduct a probable cause search without a warrant. The search produced two roaches “of recently smoked marijuana” and a black bag containing about a gram of pot, plus some Xanax pills, a controlled substance, for which the vehicle occupants had no prescription.
Rodriguez told authorities she and Santos were driving from Miami to South Carolina to visit Santos’s brother. She said she’d fallen asleep and was woken up by her daughter asking where her brother was. She told authorities that at first she thought she’d forgotten him at the gas station–that he might have stepped out of the car while Santos had gone to the cashier to pay for gas. By the time they all realized the child was missing, they were already on I-95, driving north. They turned around at Palm Coast Parkway and drove back south.
Rodriguez claimed they’d bought the car and had borrowed the tag from a friend until they could get the car registered.
Santos declined to speak with deputies. Similarly, “at no time did [Santos] seem upset or remorseful about his nephew falling out of the vehicle,” the arrest report states.
The Department of Children and Families was summoned, and took the four children to a DCF office in Bunnell. Animal Control was summoned, and took the puppies to the Flagler Humane Society. Roger’s Towing was summoned, and towed the vehicle to its Bunnell yard.
Santos and Rodriguez were arrested and booked at the Flagler County jail, Rodriguez on a felony charge of child neglect and possession of a controlled substance, and Santos on charges of felony charge neglect and traffic-related misdemeanors, including driving with unrestrained children. He’s being held on $3,400 bond.
“I am glad that the child was not hurt. This could have ended very badly for the child,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in a release. “Thank you to the witness for calling us and to the deputies that quickly responded to protect the child and arresting the uncle and mother for child neglect.”