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Father: Toddler struck by van in Santa Rosa expected to make full recovery

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A 2-year-old girl struck last week by a suspected drunken driver in Santa Rosa remains in the hospital in serious condition, but she’s expected to make a full recovery, her father said Tuesday.

Saphira Howerton of Windsor was airlifted to Children’s Hospital Oakland after being hit by a van on Range Avenue near the Coddingtown Mall around 2:40 p.m. Thursday when she ran into the street, according to authorities. She has required a breathing tube, but doctors expect they’ll be able to remove it Wednesday, said Shane Howerton, the toddler’s father.

“The doctors are pretty confident that she’ll have a 100% recovery,” he said. “So the child we had before this incident, we’ll have her back.”

The van driver, later identified as Hector Cabrales Larios, 47, fled the crash, but was arrested at a nearby apartment complex on suspicion of driving drunk and hit-and-run, Santa Rosa police said. The Santa Rosa man, who remains in jail and is expected to enter a plea Aug. 5, had three prior misdemeanor DUI convictions and one felony DUI conviction within the past six years, according to police.

Shane Howerton urged people not to drink and drive.

“People get behind the wheel and they think no big deal about drinking,” he said. However, he said, there are severe consequences.

His family has had to watch their daughter struggle to breathe, Howerton said. His daughter has spent much of the past five days sedated to prevent her from removing her breathing tube, he said.

“Any time that she does become aware of what’s going on … she basically just responds in pain,” Howerton said. “You can see tears are coming down and she has that pain face that you can see she’s under pain.”

Fortunately, he said, his daughter is expected by the end of the week to go home, where she’ll continue her recovery.

He described Saphira as a happy, outgoing toddler who loves Disney films, the Trolls movie and playing in water.

Just a month before the crash, she had celebrated her birthday at her favorite park in Healdsburg, followed by a trip to Bodega Bay to dip her feet in the ocean.

“Saphira enjoys water. She’s the kind of girl that while I’m watering the plants she wants to get her hands into the water,” he said. “She has a little pool. She loves to be in her little pool.”

Saphira has always been comfortable around people, and loves kissing people’s hands, Howerton said.

“She’s always had that personality of not being shy … just being super innocent,” he said. However, he fears his daughter has now learned “the world isn’t so innocent.”

One of his cousins has set up a GoFundMe account to help raise money to cover his daughter’s medical bills. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/sapphiras-fundraiser.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @iambeale.

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