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Rossmoor custodian helps at scene of horrific Pittsburg crash

Two die, five injured in tragic accident

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

News photo by Dan Rosenstrauch
Custodian Armando Medina talks about the deadly car crash he encountered in Pittsburg.

Armando Medina, a Rossmoor custodian for the past 13 years, had almost arrived at his Pittsburg home after work on April 12 when he saw brake lights in front of him, and people in the middle of West Leland Road waving for traffic to stop.

He came across a mangled Toyota Corolla, and two young girls lying in the roadway. There also was, he said, a child car seat leaning on its side against a nearby chain-link fence.

“People were yelling, ‘Oh my God, there’s a baby in the car seat!’” said Medina, who walked up to see a 1-year-old boy, crying, with blood near his mouth and on his arm, still secured in the seat. At first glance, Medina said, the boy seemed to be in relatively good shape.

Two adults in the Corolla’s front seat, a man and a woman, were clearly in much worse shape, Medina said.

The three children all had been ejected from the Corolla when a Chevy Camaro had rear-ended them at “a high rate of speed” moments earlier, Pittsburg police said. When the Camaro struck the back of the Corolla, the driver of the Corolla lost control and struck several trees. Both vehicles had been headed east, police said.

“It happened right next to a park, so there were already a lot of people there,” Medina said.

“I just told the lady her baby was OK,” he said the day after the wreck. She asked about her other kids, too, but Medina said he didn’t answer, leaving that to the police and paramedics who had since arrived on the scene. “Those girls … they were ejected 30 or 40 yards,” Medina said.

Two people in the Corolla – the adult male driver and a 7-year-old girl who had been in the back seat – died, and five other people, including the woman, the 1-year-old and a 4-year-old girl in the Corolla, were injured, Pittsburg police said.

The driver of the Corolla was pronounced dead at the scene, police said, and the 7-year-old girl died a short time later at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. The 4-year-old and the 1-year-old were both taken to hospitals, as was the adult female passenger.

There were three people in the Camaro; two of them, including a 10-year-old in the back seat, were taken to hospitals for treatment of major injuries, police said.

The only person in either car not injured was the Camaro’s driver, 25-year-old Christian Vargas, whom police said showed signs of impairment at the scene. Vargas was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Police said Vargas was subsequently taken to the Martinez Detention Facility, where he was initially held on suspicion of felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony driving under the influence resulting in bodily injury. Police said Vargas was also on active court probation for a prior DUI conviction.

Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office spokesman Scott Alonso said that, as of April 14, the DA had not formally received the case from Pittsburg police detectives. But Alonso said a filing was expected by the end of the week.

Medina said he stayed with the 1-year-old, still secured in the car seat, until paramedics took over. “I didn’t want to move him,” he said.

Medina said he’s never been in a devastating accident like the one he happened upon April 12, but he had come across something similar a decade ago in Mexico, when a driver had gone off the road and crashed. It turned out that man had been shot four times while he was driving, he said.

The fact the Camaro driver in Pittsburg on April 12 walked away seemingly without a scratch disturbs Medina. “These guys with their ‘muscle cars,’ they’re just trying to prove they can fly,” he said.

The morning after the wreck, on his way to Rossmoor, he saw a tree near the wreck site that had a significant patch of bark sheared off.

“When you see these things, you stop and think about whether you feel good about driving,” Medina said. “This was an experience nobody wants.”