RHOME, Texas — An 18-year-old driver faces serious charges after police said he drove off from the scene of a wrong-way, head-on collision that killed a 5-year-old boy. A 14-year-old also needed to be airlifted to the hospital.
The Rhome Police Department said that Christopher Fowler has been charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of accident involving injury or death, both second-degree felonies. He also faces an additional third-degree felony count of accident involving injury or death.
He was released from the Wise County jail after posting bond.
Police said around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, Fowler drove his Nissan Xterra north in the southbound lanes of US HWY287 in Rhome and hit a Toyota Camry, carrying a family of six, head-on.
Rhome Police Chief Eric Debus said dispatch got calls from witnesses that Fowler was going the wrong way down the highway before the crash. Debus said a Department of Public Safety Trooper caught up with the teen, but was unable to alert other drivers in time.
A 5-year-old boy in the Camry died at the scene. A 14-year-old had to be airlifted to Cooks Children’s Hospital with severe injuries. No identities have been released at this time.
Police said Fowler left the scene of the accident - possibly on foot, possibly with assistance - without calling for help.
Roughly 15 hours later - around 4:30 p.m. - after a search involving the Rhome Police Department and DPS, police arrested Fowler at his Northlake home.
The accident, including a possible cause, is still being investigated by members of the Rhome Police Department, DPS, the Texas Rangers and the Wise County Sheriff’s Office.
Chief Debus said they're now looking into Fowler's "pre-accident events" for possible clues. At this time, Debus said it's unclear if Fowler was impaired.
"There is always a reason somebody is on the wrong side of the highway, and there is always a reason why people flee the scene," Debus said.
Meanwhile, state troopers are warning all drivers that holiday traffic mixed with holiday parties and celebrations is always a concern. Sgt. Kyle Bradford with DPS said the technology available means driving impaired should never be an option.
"We have so many different functions, and so many different things now with time evolving - with Uber and things of that nature, that individuals can utilize as opposed to getting behind the wheel," he said.
As for the family in the crash in Rhome, Debus is promising them answers.
“To lose a 5-year-old and have your 14-year-old severely injured, it’s traumatic," he said. "So, it’s our job as law enforcement to bring them some sort of comfort and peace.”