Retired UFC fighter Brendan Schaub is telling his harrowing first-person account of the wrong-way crash that killed a young mother in Los Angeles last week.
Schaub, 38, and his wife were driving on the 101 in Los Angeles Thursday on their way to date night when they saw a gruesome car crash on the side of the freeway, he shared on his podcast, The Fighter and the Kid, on Wednesday.
The crash involved an SUV and an 18-wheeler, which was blocking two lanes of traffic.
He would have kept on driving, Schaub told co-host Bryan Callen, had he not seen a young boy on the top of the SUV waving his arms for help.
"There's a car, just mangled," the athlete recalled. "There's like a 6- or 7-year-old on the top of the car like this" — here, Schaub waved his arms over his head to demonstrate — "yelling for help."
"And then he's pointing down, I look down, and there's two other kids in the car," Schaub said.
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Brendan Schaub
Schaub described a chaotic scene, with debris everywhere and gas leaking from the 18-wheeler, flooding the area. After he pulled over and was running back towards the accident, Schaub noticed a man walking on the freeway and witnessed him getting hit by an oncoming vehicle.
"I'm like, what in the f— is going on, man?" Schaub said. "I'm just thinking about the kids."
Through tears, Schaub recounted the next several moments.
"There's a bigger kid and he keeps going, 'I don't wanna die, I don't wanna die,' and I go, 'you're not going to die, buddy, you're not going to die,' " Schaub said.
He and another man on the scene, who he said may have been the truck driver, couldn't get the car's door open because it was so damaged from the crash, so they removed shattered glass from a broken window and pulled the kids through.
As they were trying to make sure everyone was safely out of the SUV, Schaub noticed a woman — later identified by authorities as 26-year-old Aimee Garcia — in the front who "passed away. Brain matter everywhere, blood everywhere."
Facebook Aimee Garcia
Schaub said his goal at that point was to make sure that the kids didn't see their mother in that state — "he was so young, it would have completely f—ed him up," he said of the smallest child.
The older child ,who had been on top of the car, ended up being okay according to Schaub.
Getting choked up, Schaub recalled telling the kid, "'You're so brave, dude. You're such a little badass ... I know you don't know me, but I'm so proud you. ... You're the reason I stopped and I got your brothers.' "
By this time, another bystander had stopped to help, Schaub said. He asked her to take the kids away from the scene of the accident so that they wouldn't see what was going on.
Once it seemed as though the children were safely away from the scene, Schaub went back to his wife — who was waiting in their car — and left because it was dangerous to wait by the side of the road.
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After he gave a statement to California Highway Patrol, Schaub said that authorities told him that the man he had seen get hit was the children's father, later identified by officials as Cesar Iban Torres, 31.
"They said, 'That guy that you saw get hit by the car, that morning woke up and told his kids, 'we're all going to heaven today' .... and decided he was going to kill the whole family and run into an 18-wheeler,' " Schaub recounted, adding that the truck driver later said that even though he tried to avoid the SUV, it purposely hit him straight on.
On Monday, Torres was charged with one count of murder and four counts each of attempted murder and child abuse under circumstances or conditions likely to cause great bodily injury or death, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office said. He was also charged with one count each of assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest.
An investigation into the crash is ongoing by the CHP.
Nearly a week after the ordeal, Schaub — a father himself — is still shaken, and said on The Fighter and the Kid that he can't get the kids out of his head.
"I'll help pay for the funeral," Schaub said, "but I want to help those kids out." The athlete said he's reached out to Garcia's aunt, who set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with funeral expenses, about ways he can help financially and make sure they stay together.
The GoFundMe has now raised more than $50,000 of its $30,000 initial goal.