Despite the fact that the 1987 Suzuki Samurai involved in the accident appeared to have been modified for off-road travel, the CHP says it had no chance crossing the deep water of the Mojave River.
Once the vehicle was pulled ashore, the Highway Patrol officers' worst fears were confirmed. While the driver and 19-year-old passenger were able to escape the sunken vehicle, a 16-month-old boy strapped into the back car seat was killed.
"As officers, we all have families and this is one of the hardest things we have, where a child sustained fatal injuries from something that could have been prevented," said CHP Officer Joaquin Zubieta.
It all happened in a remote part of Hesperia in the Mojave River. It is common to find drivers in the area off-roading.
But Monday at about 8 p.m., 23-year-old Hunter Kilmer of Apple Valley made a deadly decision by trying to cross the river.
"As he comes up to the riverbed he sees that the water's there flowing, he cannot tell how deep the water is, and he starts going through the water at less than 5 miles per hour," said Zubieta.
That's when the truck overturned. It took rescue crews a while to find the location. By the time the truck was removed, officers believe the child had been underwater for close to two hours.
The crash became a criminal investigation when the driver was taken into custody for suspected drunken driving. Kilmer was also booked for investigation of manslaughter.
"It's the holiday weekend, they're out there trying to have fun, and this thing happened and it just ruins lives all the way around," said Zubieta.
Kilmer is expected to be arraigned Wednesday or Thursday when he will be officially charged with felony DUI and manslaughter.