OGDEN — What was believed to be an impaired driver on I-15 Monday afternoon turned out to be a child trying to make his way to California to buy a Lamborghini sports car, authorities said.
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper who was looking to pull over a speeding vehicle on the freeway happened to notice another vehicle struggling to maintain the I-15 lanes shortly after 12:15 p.m., UHP Lt. Nick Street said. The vehicle was also traveling a little over 30 mph on the freeway.
"When they found the vehicle, they thought 'Oh yeah, this might be an impaired person' and when the car pulled over, it even seemed more like this person might not know what they're doing," Street said, adding that it was "luck" that the trooper spotted the vehicle before anything worse may have happened.
That trooper was able to pull the vehicle over near the 24th Street off-ramp. When the trooper got out to speak with the driver, he discovered a boy whose head barely reached the headrest behind the wheel.
"He was sitting on the front edge of the seat so that he could reach the brake pedal to keep the car stopped while I was standing there," said UHP trooper Rick Morgan, who initiated the stop. "I helped him get the car into park, shut the vehicle down and then we started to look for means to contact his parents."
Troopers got ahold of the boy's family, who confirmed with the highway patrol that the boy was 5. Authorities learned that both parents were at work and a sibling was supposed to watch the boy.
Family members told troopers the boy had gotten upset with his mother at some point earlier when she wouldn't let him buy a Lamborghini, Street said. The boy's parents told investigators the boy had never driven before and they hadn't had any issues like that prior to Monday's incident.
However, it's believed the boy grabbed the keys from a hook in the home, started the car and made it from his home located in the area of 17th Street and Lincoln Avenue to the I-15 South on-ramp at 21st Street, Street said. That is about a five-minute drive from the home to the freeway.
Dashboard camera footage released by the Utah Highway Patrol shows the moment troopers located the vehicle on Monday. The boy was driving in an SUV traveling south. A vehicle tried to pass the SUV when the SUV swerved through a few lanes. That's when Morgan turned on his lights to initiate the stop.
The boy immediately pulled over near the concrete median, Morgan got out of the vehicle and eventually leans inside the window. The vehicle moves slowly for a bit before he opens the driver's side door and turns the engine off, and calls in the traffic stop.
When he returns to the vehicle, Morgan asks the boy for his age.
"You're 5 years old? Wow," Morgan said. "Where did you learn how to drive a car?"
Some of the conversation is inaudible, but the boy later told Morgan that the car belongs to his mother and that he got it from his home. He also said he was trying to head to California.
In recalling the incident with reporters, Morgan said the boy was upset and almost on the verge of tears when he caught up to him. He told troopers he was trying to get to his sister's home in California and that he also wanted to buy a Lamborghini. In a tweet, authorities wrote that the boy had $3 in his wallet that was "might have been short on the purchase amount" of a car brand that typically costs at least $200,000.
"I have a son who just turned 6 and I can't imagine him being able to figure out how to get behind the wheel or even having the want or willpower to be like 'I'm going to California to buy a Lamborghini,'" Street added.
One of our Troopers in Weber Co. initiated a traffic stop on what he thought was an impaired driver. Turns out it was this young man, age 5, somehow made his way up onto the freeway in his parents' car. Made it from 17th and Lincoln in Ogden down to the 25th St off-ramp SB I-15. pic.twitter.com/3aF1g22jRB— Utah Highway Patrol (@UTHighwayPatrol) May 4, 2020
Nobody was hurt and no property was believed to be damaged.
Even so, charges could still be filed against the parents in the case, Street explained. That decision would be made by the Weber County attorney's office.
"We're counting our blessings (nobody was hurt) but that doesn't mean a high-risk situation that put a lot of people's lives in jeopardy (didn't occur)," he said. "Based on that, we'll talk with the county attorney and see what charges they would like filed or screened with them and we'll do that."
Authorities say the incident is also a reminder for parents to make sure their vehicle's keys aren't in a spot to be easily taken by children.
"If you have a child that might be at high risk to grab the keys and get behind the wheel, you need to mitigate that by some degree by making sure the keys aren't in an easily accessible place," Street said, "making sure your vehicle is locked and all those things you need to do."
Contributing: Andrew Adams, KSL TV