As Earl L. Ward ran from the crashed van where he had left his two injured children early Tuesday, the kids' mother heard him holler.
Della Svenningsen had gotten out of the vehicle moments earlier after the couple had argued and heard the crash, according to her mother. Then Ward yelled, "There's something wrong with them!" Elsa Svenningsen said Wednesday.
By the time Della Svenningsen realized what had happened and phoned police, Ward was gone, according a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.
The couple's children — Amarya West, 14, and her 8-year-old brother Almond West — were injured when Ward drove the van into a shallow construction hole on a St. Paul street. Both remained hospitalized Wednesday after undergoing surgery.
Ward, of Brooklyn Park, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with multiple counts of criminal vehicular operation, endangerment of a child and violating a no-contact order.
According to the complaint:
About 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, police responded to a report of an accident at Hazel Street and Mechanic Avenue. When they arrived, they found Svenningsen running and screaming and pointing to a damaged van that was resting in an 8- to 10-inch-deep hole that was marked with orange cones, signs and tape.
Officers found the children in the front of the vehicle. Amarya could move only her head. Her brother told police that his leg was broken. Ward, 45, was gone.
The children were taken to Regions Hospital. Amarya suffered fractures to her spine and experienced decreased sensation below her shoulders. She also suffered injuries to her head and teeth. Almond suffered a broken leg and an injury to an artery that required surgery.
Amarya is an honors student at Hopkins West Junior High; Almond attends Meadowbrook Elementary in Golden Valley, their grandmother said.
Della Svenningsen later told police that she and Ward had gone to a drive-in movie theater with the children and her older son and his girlfriend. Ward had been drinking alcohol during the movie, she said, and "was intoxicated."
After the movie ended, Svenningsen drove the group to her son's girlfriend's home. During the ride, she and Ward got into an argument and she got out. Ward was arrested after police received a tip around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday that he could be at his sister's home in St. Paul. When officers arrived, they found him sleeping in a vehicle in the parking lot.