— Parents do their best to protect their children from the dangers of the outside world — but parents James Lopez and Claudia Cambara learned through a miraculous near-miss that danger can also come barreling right into your own home.
Lopez and Cambara were enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon at their rented home in Albuquerque, N.M., with their 21-month-old daughter, Destiny, and 8-month-old son, Christopher, when what they thought sounded like a bomb went off.
A driver who had dozed off at the wheel had plowed straight into their home. Half the car ended up in the living room and, even more harrowing, the other half was parked in the bedroom that Destiny and Christopher share.
It took what Lopez and Cambara believe was a miracle for their two little ones to come through what could have been an unspeakable family tragedy barely the worse for wear.
The whole family appeared live on TODAY Thursday, detailing to Natalie Morales the bizarre, lightning-fast chain of events that pushed the family from a state of abject terror to a state of blessed relief in less than two minutes.
Lopez told Morales he had just taken Destiny out of her crib after she awoke from a nap, and was minding her in the living room when the car went through the house.
“I heard a loud boom and I got thrown across the living room,” Lopez said. “I knew somebody had driven through my children’s bedroom. I jumped off the ground and I ran toward the room. [Cambara] was trying to get into the room to check on [Christopher], but she couldn’t open the door. I had to ram it until I could get in.”
Finally, after Lopez managed to get the door wedged open, the engaged couple saw an unbelievable sight. The car had first hit the crib where Destiny had been lying just 10 minutes before. The crib was destroyed.
And the car came to a stop literally on top of Christopher’s crib, which gave the parents an immediate rush of dread.
“All I saw was his head and his arms sticking out from underneath the car, between the wood and glass,” Lopez said. “He didn’t cry, so I was thinking the worst.”
“I honestly thought he was dead,” Cambara added.
An ominous odor
But their hearts quickly lifted after Lopez dislodged Christopher — he was breathing, conscious, and largely un-bloodied from the car-crib collision. But the couple also had to act fast — the smell of gas was permeating the house.
“[The driver] had taken out our furnace, and the gas line broke,” Lopez explained. After Lopez and neighbors helped the unconscious driver out of the wrecked car, all made a beeline for the outdoors, fearing an imminent explosion.
The driver, 51-year-old Carrie Biesiot, was taken to the hospital, where she was treated and released. She told police she had taken the sleep aid Ambien about 12 hours before the crash and had blacked out at the wheel. An investigation into the crash is ongoing.
Lopez and his family also were checked out at the hospital. While the parents feared Christopher might have suffered internal injuries, doctors gave him a clean bill of health. The only reminders of the near-miss are some scratches on his ribs and some head cuts from flying glass.
Cambara said she believes it was a case of divine intervention that not only did Christopher survive being run over by a car while lying in his crib, but that they had taken Destiny out of her crib just minutes before the car smashed it into bits.
“Thank God that we got her out; she would have been in there and she wouldn’t be here with us now,” Cambara told Morales. “I’m just grateful that she is alive today.”
The house was in a shambles and uninhabitable after the crash. But the family and their neighbors point to what they regard as a sign that the children were being protected — a crucifix on the children’s bedroom wall that remained hanging even after the house-rattling impact of the car.
“That cross on the wall — that tells you everything right there,” a neighbor told NBC.
Lopez agreed. “I believe God had a lot to do with this,” the grateful father said.