A father accused of abandoning his critically injured son after a car accident pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of hit and run and child endangerment in court on Thursday.
On Sunday night, father Angelo Fabiani Arroyo, 40, rolled his black Nissan Titan truck off Interstate 5 near Old Town San Diego. The car, which was also occupied by his 4-year-old son, veered off the road near Rosecrans Street, landing on its side on an embankment along Jefferson Street.
Upon impact, the child sitting in a car seat was partially ejected from the truck. Witnesses told NBC 7 they could see the boy hanging out of the window of the wreckage.
According to CHP officials, Arroyo took off running immediately following the crash, leaving his son, Valentino, behind.
He returned to the scene a moment later to unbuckle the boy from his seat, but then got scared and took off running again, according to CHP.
CHP Officer Juan Escobar said the child fell on his back and hit the concrete curb, falling approximately 10 feet from the truck to the ground.
Good Samaritans helped pull Valentino from the vehicle, and he was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital, where he remained in critical condition on Thursday.
Prosecutors say the child is not expected to survive.
Arroyo was arrested on Tuesday in Imperial Beach and charged with hit and run and child endangerment.
The father appeared shackled in court Thursday for his arraignment and pleaded not guilty to both charges.
It was an emotional day in court for Arroyo and his family and friends.
Arroyo’s loved ones say the dad panicked following the crash, and maybe hit his head and was disoriented.
“He’s a beautiful father; a great father; a loving father,” said family friend Martha Tolles. “This was a horrific, horrible accident. He tried to save his baby, and he might have hit his head. He went crazy. He went crazy.”
A prosecutor revealed Arroyo was on probation, stemming from a DUI case two years ago.
On Thursday, a judge ordered Arroyo to be held in jail on $150,000 bail. Should he make bail, the judge also ordered Arroyo to stay away from his hospitalized son.
After the arraignment, friends said that despite the terrible events that have transpired they believe Arroyo is a good father who made a big mistake.
“Angelo is a wonderful dad. The way I see it, he would never run. I believe he got disoriented, and he must’ve hit his head, and I believe he was seeking help for his child,” said family friend Maggie Vinson.
“Imagine your son, falling from your arms. Please people, have sympathy. I mean anybody that’s a father and a mother out there knows the pain of a mother and a father,” added Tolles.
Friends say the child’s mother is by the boy's side at the hospital, although they would not disclose details of the mother’s relationship to Arroyo at this time.
If convicted, Arroyo faces seven years in prison. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Jun. 17.