ANTIOCH -- A car going more than twice the speed limit -- and possibly piloted by a drunken driver -- struck a school crossing guard, her son, and another woman in front of an elementary school Tuesday morning, police said.
Classes had just begun five minutes earlier at Turner Elementary School, and no students were injured, police said. The two adults had broken bones and cuts but were expected to survive, police said Tuesday afternoon; the boy was knocked to the ground but not hurt.
Police said two people escaped the smashed car as it lay on its side in a driveway, but one of them returned to the crash scene, said he was the driver and admitted he had been drinking. Michael James Ratliff, 22, of Oakland, was arrested at the scene; police did not immediately say on what charges he was booked.
The other person -- who police said may have an outstanding warrant -- remains at large, and a police captain described Ratliff's confession as "suspicious."
The crash happened about 8:05 a.m., as the rented 2012 Audi A3 wagon reached at least 60 mph while driving in an "impatient" manner eastbound on Delta Fair Boulevard, Antioch police Capt. Steve McConnell said.
The driver swerved around a car that had stopped at a red light, clipped the front bumper of a Toyota Camry that was turning left onto School Street as the light changed, lost control and struck the pedestrians.
The crossing guard, identified as Oakley resident Dana Canady by Turner principal Sue Ten Eyck, was talking to another woman while her 8-year-old son sat in a lawn chair nearby. Witnesses said the SUV hit the pedestrians at full speed.
"The car hit them head-on, and they went flying through the air," said Lorretta Messer, a mother who had just dropped her child at Turner when the crash happened. "I thought 'My God, I was five paces away from either dying or being really injured.'"
Both adults had "very severe" injuries and were taken by helicopter to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, McConnell said. The second victim, who reportedly had just dropped her child at the school, was identified only as a 32-year-old Pittsburg resident.
The Toyota was driven by a 47-year-old Antioch man who was on the way to drop his sons, ages 5 and 9, at the school. No one in that car was injured, police said.
Canady was apparently pinned by a brown trash bin against the garage of a home on the corner of Delta Fair Boulevard and School Street. The SUV, nearly flattened by the crash, came to rest on the passenger's side and briefly caught fire, McConnell said.
An Antioch resident and nurse who identified herself only as Debra was using Delta Fair to bypass traffic on Somersville Road when the collision happened. She said she ran first to the adult victims, then turned to look for the boy once other bystanders began to help.
"He had wandered across the street," she said. "He had no clue as to what had happened. He said, 'Where's my mom? I wanna see my mom.' I asked him, 'Who's your mom?' And he said she was the crossing guard."
Witnesses said the two occupants of the SUV, both men in their early 20s, got out and fled, but Ratliff returned after running about a block and slumped to the sidewalk. He displayed obvious signs of intoxication and told police that he had been drinking and that the other man had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, McConnell said.
The other man has not been found, and no information was immediately available about his criminal history. Police arrested Ratliff but have not confirmed that he was actually the driver, said McConnell, who described the man's claims as "suspicious."
"We have two people that fled," McConnell said. "One has an outstanding warrant and didn't return; the other gentleman did. He may be taking the fall for the other guy."
It was not immediately known if the arrested man suffered injuries in the crash.
Canady, an Oakley resident, is a district contract staffer employed by All City Management Services, Antioch school district Superintendent Donald Gill said. According to her brother-in-law, James Birdee, she had only been on the job at Turner for about a month and had been working as a crossing guard for about a year.
Her son, a student at an Oakley school, had accompanied her to work while out of school on fall break. Tuesday was reportedly his birthday, Antioch district officials said.
"It's been very rough," Birdee said of the day's events.
The third victim injured in the crash was talking to the crossing guard after having just dropped her child off at school, police said. Family members came to the school to pick up and take her child to the hospital.
The school day proceeded as normal Tuesday, though Ten Eyck said there were psychologists available on campus all day to talk to children. She also went to all the classrooms to speak to kids about what had happened.
Most were oblivious to the crash because it happened after they were in class, she said.
"We couldn't be more thankful that students were already in school when this happened," Gill said.
Ten Eyck said about 10 to 20 parents contacted the school to inquire about what had happened.
"A lot of them were just in shock," she said.
Parents waiting to pick their children up Tuesday afternoon outside Turner were discussing what had happened and showing camera phone pictures of the aftermath.
"It sounded like an airplane crash," said Bryan Givens.
The intersection has posed a problem for parents for years, especially because there is limited visibility of drivers trying to merge onto Delta Fair. People "fly right on through" on Delta Fair much faster than the speed limit, said parent Rocky Neal.
"It's scary as hell," Givens said.
According to McConnell, an eyewitness who came forward with cellphone photo and/or video footage may help lead them to which of the suspects was actually the driver of the vehicle.
"This driver was rather impatient in his driving tactics," McConnell said. "If he had been drinking, that's why he was driving the way he was."
Delta Fair was closed for most of the day, but reopened around the time school let out at 2 p.m.
Contact Daniel Jimenez at 925-945-4782. Contact Erin Ivie at 925-847-2122. Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164.