‘I can’t deal with this’: Lehigh Acres man arrested after abandoning children at DUI crash scene

Reporter: Morgan Rynor Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
Kern Campbell. Credit: Lee County Sheriff’s Office

A Lehigh Acres man is in custody after abandoning his three young children at the scene of a DUI crash in a canal Friday morning. Now, we’re hearing from the mother of those three children.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Kern Campbell, 31, was traveling north on Sunshine Boulevard, approaching a curve near Queen Drive in Lehigh Acres around 4:40 a.m. The car traveled west off the roadway, across a grass embankment into a canal. The car came to rest upright in the canal.

Here you can hear the first responder calls. “I have vehicle versus canal. Everyone is out of the vehicle. They’re requesting EMS for juveniles who were in the vehicle.”

Campbell had his three children as passengers, ages 6, 5 and 2. Campbell and the children got out of the canal with the assistance of a bystander.

The mother says, as far as she knows, all three of the children are doing well right now. At this time, the children are in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.

The witness says Campbell then told him “I can’t deal with this,” and ran away, leaving behind the children, one of whom had sustained a minor injury in the crash. Campbell was later found near his home, around 1.4 miles away.

Lieutenant Greg Beuno with Florida Highway Patrol says everyone in the car did make it to safety, but Campbell ran away. “There was a witness that stood by with the children and took care of them until the authorities got here,” said Bueno.

The witness dried the kids off and let them warm up in his car. This happened before they were taken back to their mom, who didn’t want to be identified.

“They were happy to be back with me,” said the mother.

But they weren’t with her for long, since, she says, DCF then took the children.

“I don’t know what to do myself right now. I just can’t believe that they will take my kids away from me,” she said.

According to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, deputies had responded to a call about a domestic disturbance at Campbell’s home before the crash. FHP says he sped away with the children after this.

The mom says she’s counting her blessing after surviving a near-death experience at the hands of the kids’ father.

“Very angry but I’m more so hurt because he was a good father. And I never thought he would go to an extreme for our kids to be put in a situation in a life and death situation. So I’m… I’m more so sad for him because I feel like he does need to get help,” said the mom.

He was placed under arrest and taken to the Lee County Jail. Campbell faces multiple charges: three counts of DUI, two counts of leaving the scene of a crash, three counts of child neglect and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

WINK News reached out to DCF for more information about what is going to happen with the kids. Mom has a court date on Saturday. As for the witness, FHP says they are going to give them a certificate of appreciation.

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