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FHP: Boy, 3, killed, four children injured in Ruskin drunken driving crash

A two-vehicle crash in Ruskin on Wednesday night killed 3-year-old Jacob Bustos and injured several children.
A two-vehicle crash in Ruskin on Wednesday night killed 3-year-old Jacob Bustos and injured several children.
Published Feb. 3, 2017

RUSKIN — Weeks after completing probation for driving drunk, a Ruskin man again got behind the wheel while drunk, ran a stop sign and slammed into a vehicle full of children, killing a 3-year-old boy, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Four other children, including a newborn, were hospitalized.

John Lovett Rutland Jr., 37, was being held at a Hillsborough County jail without bail Thursday on multiple charges including DUI manslaughter.

He used his phone call from jail Thursday morning to call his father in Hinesville, Ga., just as he had immediately after the accident at the intersection of College Avenue and 27th Street SE on Wednesday about 8 p.m.

"He just kept saying, 'Daddy, the baby died,' " said his father, John Rutland Sr. "I said, 'We'll pray to the Lord that the rest of the family is okay,' but I told him he made a grave mistake."

Rutland Sr. insists his son isn't a heavy drinker, but does have "a few beers every now and then."

A Breathalyzer test after the crash showed Rutland Jr., who has worked at the commissary at MacDill Air Force Base since 2003, had a blood-alcohol level between 0.125 and 0.128, arrest records show. State law presumes a driver is impaired at 0.08.

In December 2015, he failed field sobriety tests after running a stop sign at the intersection of Wheeler and Gallagher roads in Dover and striking three road signs before coming to a stop, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

He was charged with drunken driving and his license was restricted to business-related travel until Dec. 29, 2016. After Wednesday's crash, though, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said the agency will move to revoke his license for a year starting Feb. 23.

Rutland Jr. has a lengthy history of arrests and driving infractions, including speeding, careless driving and shooting a gun out of a vehicle. Court records show he settled an auto negligence suit in 2013 with a woman who said she was seriously injured in a crash on Bayshore Boulevard.

Rutland Sr. said he still doesn't know why his son was driving south Wednesday on 27th Street while intoxicated with his 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son in his 2001 Toyota Camry. He ran through a stop sign at the intersection of College Avenue, also State Road 674, crossed over the westbound lanes of the four-lane divided highway and across the median break, and struck the driver side of a 2002 Chevrolet SUV, said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol.

Debbie Jasmer had parked her food truck, Whymama's Finger Fist and Fork, near the commerce-heavy intersection Wednesday and was serving a customer when she heard the crash, she said. As she turned toward the highway she saw the SUV flip multiple times, sending belongings and debris flying. All five children and two adults in the vehicle were buckled in their seat belts, but the crash still caused 10-year-old Loylo Mirella Valencia and 3-year-old Jacob Bustos to be ejected through the windshield, she said.

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Jasmer is a longtime volunteer EMT with Sun City Emergency squad and performed CPR on the 3-year-old for about eight minutes until troopers arrived, she said.

"It was very heart-wrenching to see," Jasmer said.

The driver of the SUV, 20-year-old Marbella Valencia-Bustos, and her cousin Guadalupe Bustos-Benitez, 30, both of Wimauma, were uninjured in the crash and helped free the other children from the car. All seven were taken to Tampa General Hospital where Jacob Bustos was later pronounced dead. Two children, Loylo Valencia and an infant, were critically injured.

Joanna Rutland, John Rutland Jr.'s wife, said her husband stayed at the scene of the crash and helped extricate the children from the vehicle. Her own children were wearing seat belts and escaped injury.

"I'm just very sorry for the other family," she said.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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