The 27-year-old woman who drove into the path of a suspected drunk driver running a red light, potentially saving the lives of a family crossing the street, said she didn't plan it, but believes it was meant to be.
Shannon Vivar was driving the Chevy Cruze that on Oct. 14 crashed into a Jeep Renegade that was speeding toward a couple pushing their 11-month-old son in a stroller through a crosswalk. The Phoenix Police Department on Wednesday shared a traffic camera video of the shocking crash, which showed the cars missing the family by a matter of feet.
The family safely ran to the sidewalk, and Phoenix police described them as saved by "an angel in the form of a Chevy Cruze."
Vivar said she doesn't feel like a hero, but does believe she was meant to block the family from the crash.
"Even though it wasn’t my intention to, the way I see it was, it was meant to happen that way," she told reporters.
On Thursday, Vivar and her mother, Shirley Vivar, spoke at a press conference about their experience. They were heading home from Walmart around 10 p.m., and Shannon Vivar's 3-year-old son was in the back seat.
Shannon Vivar said she didn't see the Jeep running the red light, but she heard her mother scream. She added it may have been good she didn't see the Jeep; attempting to avoid it could have sent her veering toward the family on foot.
"I don’t remember if I sped up or pushed the brake, but once I got hit, I was lost," she said.
She recalled being disoriented by the collision, then immediately checking to see if her son and mother were OK.
"I was just happy we were all alive," she said.
The family in the crosswalk spoke to 12 News on Thursday and described their shock after seeing their narrow escape on the traffic camera video.
"I can't believe it was that close," Gabrielle Burns said.
In the video, Burns, her fiancé Ulysses Betancourt, and their 11-month-old son had just gotten off the bus and were crossing the street to go to Walmart. After the walk light turned green, they waited as two cars turned left, then began to cross.
Burns said she remembered hearing screeching tires.
"It was so quick that as I was turning, the crash was already happening," she said.
After getting his family to the other side of the street, Betancourt said he ran back to check on the occupants of the Cruze. He remembered the first thing Vivar told him was that her son was in the back seat.
He opened the door, and another bystander got the little boy out of the car as Betancourt called 911.
"He was startled, he was frightened, but he didn’t look like he had any major injuries," Betancourt said.
There was chaos at the scene as the driver of the Jeep and a woman passenger attempted to flee. The driver, 28-year-old Ernesto Otanez Oveso, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and has also been charged with aggravated assault for attempting to stab a witness at the scene, being a prohibited possessor of a firearm, and four warrants, police said.
Shirley Vivar said she hopes the crash is a wake-up call for Oveso and pointed out he could have killed her, her daughter, and her grandson in addition to the family in the crosswalk.
"I hope this is a lesson learned for him," she said. "Because this could have been worse."
Shannon Vivar was injured in the crash, and damage to the car has put her in debt, she said. The family has set up a GoFundMe to help cover expenses.
"For other people, it was the right time. For us, it was the wrong time. But it’s a blessing," her mother said. "That’s the only way I can see it."
In addition to the financial strain, Shannon Vivar said she's feeling the emotional effects of surviving a major car crash; it's difficult to get back on the road for daily activities like taking her kids to school.
But, she added, she wouldn't have it any other way.
"For me, being able to be there at the right time, it makes me feel good, even though I’m in the situation I’m in right now," she said.
To 12 News, Burns considered what she'd say to the driver who may have saved her life.
"I’m so sorry that that happened to you, but thank you," she said. "More than anything, we hope they’re OK."
Betancourt added the experience has given the family a new appreciation that life can be cut short at any time.
"Actually, being so close to being gone, that's when you stop and think about what's really important," he said. "And of course it’s family."