A 20-year-old Oakland man is being hailed as a hero Monday for catching and literally stopping a suspect drunk driver who had slammed into a van full of children.
The crash happened last Thursday at the intersection of International Avenue and 38th in east Oakland and it was caught on video.
Just after 8:30 p.m., surveillance cameras caught the moment a red pontiac sped down the bus lane on International and slammed into the van. The impact was so severe, two of the six children were thrown from the van along with baby gear and a baby stroller -- hitting a garbage can across the street.
Those two children, ages 9 and 2, were rushed to the hospital in critical condition and are now recovering at home.
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“My little cousin, his name’s Roman, saw a little girl in the corner by the lamp post and he was in shock, he told my dad right away and my dad rushed to her,” said Dayanara Padilla, owner of Club Ritmo Fitness. “He said she had two big openings on her head and her eyes would roll back. “He was just there to keep her awake until the paramedics came.”
All this while 20 year old Jefferson Mejia was focused on something else, keeping the suspect from getting away.
Mejia was getting a haircut next to his family’s restaurant when he heard the crash and immediately ran out to help.
“My first instinct was, it was my brother so I came out and I saw that my brother’s Jeep was actually hit too,” he said. “I saw there was no driver in the red car, he actually tried to I would say run away. That’s why people from cars passing by stopped by and then they helped me hold him down and that’s why he wasn’t able to run away.”
The suspect was arrested and faces charges of driving under the influence and hit-and-run.
“It's our duty as human beings and citizens of this city. If we see people in need we should help them and that was a perfect example of people stepping in,” said Gasper Gamez, owner of Ciudad de México.
The crash happened just a day before Oakland police and California Highway Patrol started a new collaborative effort to crack down on dangerous driving in the same area.
“Usually it's after eight at night, usually that’s when people just go crazy and speed all over the bus lane or even just swerving in and out and that’s when it gets dangerous,” said Mejia.
On Monday, there was plenty of shattered glass still left on the street along with a pair of baby socks -- a reminder of just how dangerous and potentially tragic high speed and drunk driving can be.