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Chaos and fear when apparently drunken driver destroys Port Richey house as family sleeps

PORT RICHEY — John Rauchbauer was asleep in bed with his fiancee when he heard an explosion at 2 a.m. Saturday. He ran toward the sound. His living room was rubble. Through the haze of smoke, he saw glowing taillights.

A car had torn through his house — completely through it, front wall, living room, dining room, his boys' bedroom.

His boys.

Tyler is 10.

Hayden is 4.

The car drove through where their beds should have been.

He couldn't find them. Rauchbauer, 30, shouted for them, desperate. His brother-in-law, Jesse Data, 26, had been asleep on an air mattress in the living room. Data's face and arms were scraped and sliced by the car as it churned past him, leaving him covered in blood. Data found Tyler, covered by debris, and grabbed him and held him.

Rauchbauer searched for Hayden.

"Hayden!" he screamed.

The driver of the 1998 Honda Accord, which stopped after plowing through the back fence, the children's jungle gym on the hood, crawled out of the car door. Rauchbauer said the driver, Crystal Leija, 32, stumbled around.

"If you give me $1,000, I'll help you find your kids," he said Leija slurred. He said she looked like she wanted to run.

"Get back in the … car," Rauchbauer told her.

Suddenly, Hayden appeared. He had been carried on his bed into the back yard with the car and deposited by a wave of junk that was once the house.

He was scratched but okay. He ran through the carnage, into his parents' bedroom and hid under the covers.

Three adults and four children were inside 6915 Twilite Drive in Embassy Hills when Leija crashed through it, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. No one was seriously injured, the Highway Patrol said.

"I don't know how those boys made it," Rauchbauer said.

Authorities say it began at the Lane Glo bowling alley, 6935 Ridge Road in Port Richey. Leija hit a parked car as she was leaving, ran over two fences and mailboxes along Sterling Lane and then plowed into Rauchbauer's house on Twilite Drive.

Leija was arrested and charged with driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury, DUI causing personal injury, DUI causing damage to property or person, and leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage.

She was being held at the Pasco jail on $6,150 bail. She had minor injuries, the Highway Patrol said.

"It was chaos," Rauchbauer kept saying Saturday afternoon, still in shock. The house was destroyed.

His fiancee, Christina Davis, 29, and their children, Hayden, Tyler and daughters Samantha, 11, and Abigail, 3, were resting at a hotel paid for by the Red Cross through Tuesday.

Rauchbauer and Davis work at Christo's in Trinity. He's a cook, she's a waitress. They have a few hundred dollars in their checking account. Rauchbauer needed to slip away Saturday afternoon to collect himself. He didn't want to break down in front of his family, so he went for a drive.

He's scared. He needs to find another place to rent.

"I need to find my family a home," he said. "I don't know what to do."

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

.Fast facts

How to help

Christo's restaurant is gathering donations for the family. Contact the restaurant to help: Christo's, 3136 Little Road, Trinity, FL 34655-1864; (727) 376-4082.

Chaos and fear when apparently drunken driver destroys Port Richey house as family sleeps 05/28/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 28, 2011 11:27pm]
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