MANGO ― Helen Mention was driving with her 10-month-old grandchild on her lap on Oct. 25 when she crashed into the guard rail while trying to drive onto Interstate 4, troopers said.
Baby Harlem was not in a car seat and died of her injured days later. The grandmother, who wasn’t wearing her seatbelt, was also hospitalized.
Now the Florida Highway Patrol says the 50-year-old didn’t just fail to put the baby in a car seat ― the grandmother was driving while impaired.
Helen Mention had a blood-alcohol level of 0.225, troopers said. That’s nearly three times the level at which Florida law presumes impairment.
The Tampa grandmother was arrested Monday on charges of DUI manslaughter, aggravated manslaughter of a child, careless driving and violating Florida’s child restraint law.
The crash took place at about 9:06 a.m. while the grandmother was driving a gray 2001 Nissan Altima. She was headed north on Mango Road, then entered the westbound ramp onto I-4. But as the car turned, troopers said it crashed into the inside guard rail.
Grandmother and granddaughter were both taken to Tampa General Hospital for emergency treatment after the crash in Mango. The child died on Oct. 28.
The Highway Patrol did not disclose exactly how the baby was injured, what injuries he suffered or the cause of death. The grandmother was treated at the hospital and later released.
But troopers said while she was in the hospital, Helen Mention’s blood was drawn and then tested. Florida law presumes impairment with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or greater.
Troopers arrested Mention on Monday in Tampa. She was booked into the Hillsborough County jail, where she was being held without bail.
State records show she has a long arrest history, dating back to her first arrest in 1991 at age 22. The next year she was arrested on charges of possession of cocaine and sentenced to two years and six months in state prison. She racked up several minor arrests after that, then was convicted of more drug charges in 2004. Her sentencing information for those offenses was not available, however.
Her driving history also shows multiple citations for infractions such as driving with a license cancelled, suspended or revoked and violation of open containers laws going back to 1999, records show.
Her last driving offense was in January 2018, which involved a crash and resulted in Mention being convicted of reckless driving in county court.
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.