Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
On Monday, 6-year-old Joel Anthony and 9-year-old sister Ariana were in the car with their mother, Antoinette, on their way to spend their Easter money on Legos and other toys.
At the same time, a police officer responding to a call, with emergency lights on, was driving north on Eubank. The two vehicles collided as Antoinette turned left onto Indian School, leaving the two children critically injured.
Thursday evening, the family told the Journal the decision had been made to take Joel off life support.
Leah Nielsen, the children’s aunt, was in tears as she relayed a message from their mother.
“We lost the most loving child,” she said. “He’s a fighter and he’s on a new journey now.”
Nielsen said Joel’s sister Ariana has broken bones and remains in critical condition. She is in and out of consciousness and has not yet been told about her younger brother.
“Ariana has a really long road left,” Nielsen said. “They seem more optimistic, but it’s tough.”
She said the children’s mother is very bruised, very sore and completely devastated.
“Antoinette hasn’t left their side,” Nielsen said. “She’s just walking back and forth from each room, rooting them on and holding their hands.”
Joel’s father has been there, too, she said.
The police officer involved in the crash, Johnathan McDonnell, is a nine-year veteran of the force. He suffered a broken femur and other injuries and was still sedated in the hospital Wednesday night, according to a spokeswoman for the Albuquerque Police Department.
APD said Monday night that McDonnell had been responding to reports of a man armed with a machete at an Albertsons grocery store on Juan Tabo and Candelaria, but spokespersons have not answered any other questions about that call, including whether the man was taken into custody.
Officials haven’t released any other information about the crash, including how fast the officer was going and when he turned on his emergency lights.
Based on video footage of the crash recorded from a street-side business and analysis of the traffic light patterns at the intersection, it appears both drivers had a green light.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is the lead agency investigating the crash, and spokeswoman Felicia Romero said the investigation is ongoing. She said the department will not release any more information without a request filed under the Inspection of Public Records Act.
Everyone ran in to help
When the two cars collided shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, the sound of the crash echoed through the streets. Neighbors, bystanders and passersby rushed to help.
“I heard tires squealing and a bang,” said Amy Diaz, who lives nearby. “I looked out the window and could see smoke and dust. The cop is laying there and people are just rushing in and pulling the kids and the mother out of the vehicle.”
She and Robin Candelaria said they ran out to help and watched as a woman performed CPR on a little boy before paramedics arrived.
“Someone – I don’t know who – asked someone for a knife, and they cut his seat belt and laid him on the ground,” Candelaria said. “The boy was unconscious. It was sad to see him lying there lifeless.”
Candelaria said some people went to help the officer, while others tended to Antoinette and tried to keep her away from the sight of her children.
“She was sitting on the curb yelling, ‘My kids! My kids!’ ” Candelaria said. “She was banged up and screaming and crying.”
Ambulances arrived and took all four to University of New Mexico Hospital.
Family and friends heard the news and rushed to be with them, taking shifts sitting with Antoinette and Joel’s father.
Nielsen said most of the family lives in the Northeast Heights, not far from where the crash occurred. She said it’s been hard to drive past the intersection each day and watch a memorial of flowers and stuffed animals grow around the light pole. Someone attached a cape around the pole, in honor of Joel’s love of superheroes.
Nielsen said Joel’s favorite hero was Batman, and last Halloween he dressed up as the character Woody from the film “Toy Story,” while her son dressed up as Buzz Lightyear.
She said his older sister Ariana loves puzzles and animals and is always talking about books and ideas. Ariana had been hoping to buy some materials to make a necklace Monday evening.
She said Antoinette has been struggling with feelings of disbelief and guilt since the crash and has been trying to come to terms with everything that has happened.
“The kids are just everything that Antoinette has,” Nielsen said.