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New documents detail horror, heartbreak in Bayshore crash that killed mother, daughter

Joy Harris walks along Bayshore Boulevard on Wednesday near the area where Jessica Raubenolt, 24, and her daughter Lillia were killed as they crossed the street last May. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
Joy Harris walks along Bayshore Boulevard on Wednesday near the area where Jessica Raubenolt, 24, and her daughter Lillia were killed as they crossed the street last May. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Mar. 7, 2019

Click here to read this story in Spanish.

TAMPA — The last time he saw them was moments before the crash.

David Raubenolt was driving on Bayshore Boulevard when he spotted his wife, Jessica Raubenolt, in shorts and T-shirt, pushing a stroller that held their 1-year-old daughter, Lillia. The young family from Ohio was staying with relatives nearby. She'd gone for a walk that sunny Wednesday morning along the iconic waterfront sidewalk. He was getting food before she returned.

He phoned her, said he'd see her in a few minutes. He drove back along MacDill Avenue to an empty house. Something seemed wrong. He stepped outside and glanced east toward Bayshore and saw the police cars, the traffic jam, the onlookers. He ran toward them down Knights Avenue and saw the smashed stroller, lying in the roadway.

Hillsborough County prosecutors released hundreds of pages of documents this week detailing the May 23, 2018, crash that killed the young mother and her baby daughter. The documents, which include police reports and a scientific crash analysis, are part of the state's case against the teens accused of causing the deadly collision, who were said to have been racing at speeds upwards of 100 mph.

The information adds context to an episode that horrified the Bayshore neighborhood and people across Tampa, drawing strangers to a vigil for Lillia three months later on what would have been her second birthday and speeding up plans to add pedestrian safety features along the boulevard.

Previous coverage: Bayshore race claims two lives: child dies day after mother's death

• • •

Eyewitnesses gave police similar stories of how the crash occurred, the newly released records show.

They all described two cars, one a black Ford Mustang, the other a silver Nissan Altima, speeding up Bayshore north of Gandy Boulevard. The cars weaved between other motorists as they zipped along the two lanes, exhaust roaring from the back of the Mustang.

As she watered plants on her 12th-floor balcony at the corner of Knight's and Bayshore, Mary Cassidy could see Jessica Raubenolt about to push the stroller across the boulevard from east to west. Cassidy braced when she heard the screeching cars.

"They appeared to be competing and racing," she later told a detective, echoing the assessment of other witnesses.

Mark Lewis saw the impact from the ground. He later described Raubenolt tumbling through the air. The racing cars stopped.

Two young men got out of the Mustang. Police later identified them as Cameron Herrin, then 18, the driver, and his older brother, Tristan Herrin, then 20. In the Nissan was John Barrineau, then 17.

"(They) were sort of screaming," Lewis said.

"One of the other gentleman that was with him kept telling him to call somebody," said Brian Green, another witness. "Call his dad, call his mom, or something like that."

Data from the Mustang's navigation and entertainment system showed that the car was moving at 102 mph six seconds before the crash, according to a Tampa police collision reconstruction report. Immediately before the impact, the driver pressed hard on the brakes, reducing the speed to between 30 and 40 mph at the moment Raubenolt was struck.

When asked how fast the cars were going before the collision, witnesses gave estimates ranging between 55 and 60 mph. But the report concluded, based on calculations of various speeds and stopping distances, that they must have been going faster.

"Had the vehicles been traveling at the posted speed limit of 40 mph or even above the speed limit at 60 mph as some witnesses have described they would have had plenty of time to stop and this crash would have not occurred," an investigator wrote.

Previous coverage: Vehicular homicide charges in Bayshore crash will hinge on strength of street racing evidence, experts say

• • •

Enrico Serpe is an active duty combat medic stationed at Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base. He's also an Orlando firefighter and paramedic. He left the base that morning and was heading up Bayshore when all the cars in front of him came to a halt. He could see people stepping out onto the road. He parked, grabbed his medical bag and ran north.

He saw a group tending to Raubenolt as she lay in the grass. He didn't think she could be saved. Further ahead, he saw a woman holding the baby. He heard people say she was breathing.

The little girl's cheeks were blue. She had bruising on her body and a scrape on her head. He could hear her drawing slow, heavy breaths.

He held her, pressed his mouth to hers, and puffed. After a few breaths, her skin turned pink again.

He noticed a group of young men sitting on the nearby grass.

"They looked scared as hell," Serpe later told an investigator.

Background: Parents of teens in fatal Bayshore crash described as loving, attentive and devastated

Officers placed the young men in a patrol car. Cameron Herrin and John Barrineau would later be charged with vehicular homicide and unlawful racing on a highway. Tristan Herrin also faces a racing charge, a felony.

"This is a tragic and heartbreaking case for not only the Reisinger and Raubenolt families, but for the Herrin family as well," Tampa attorney John Fitzgibbons, who is representing Cameron Herrin, told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday.

"At the time of the incident, Cameron Herrin was a typical 18-year-old young man, who had never been in any sort of trouble and both he and his family are devastated by what happened."

• • •

A bystander gave David Raubenolt a lift to Tampa General Hospital. Police met him there. Distraught, he explained that his family came to Tampa for a week so he could get his pilot's license. He said he'd seen the stroller in road.

Officers spoke with doctors. They learned the baby had a brain injury that was inoperable.

They turned to the father and confirmed what he feared, that his life would never be the same.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported incorrectly the relationship between David and Jessica Raubenolt.