OAKDALE — Eleven-year-old Adrian Zavala likes to help his younger brother with homework and get him ready for school. He drapes his arm around the 8-year-old when they walk places. Adrian's mother says she sometimes has to remind him to act like a kid.
So it made sense when neighborhood parents and children told Siarah Vegas her son had pushed his younger brother out of the way of an oncoming car.
Adrian was thrown onto the hood, his thigh bone broken. Jesse Barrera, 8, walked away with bruises and aches.
"That's just natural for Adrian," Vegas said in an interview at her house Saturday. "I wouldn't have expected anything less from him."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
On Wednesday morning, the brothers were walking to Fair Oaks Elementary School when they were hit by a car turning left from North Lee Avenue onto Pontiac Street, just a few doors down from their house.
Oakdale police officer Mi- chael Walsh said the driver was blinded momentarily by the sun as he turned east onto Pontiac. He will not be cited, Walsh said.
There is a four-way stop at the intersection that's a few hundred yards south of the school. Walsh called it a "traffic nightmare." Since the collision, parent volunteers have been seen helping students cross there.
Adrian's stepfather, Alfred Vegas, heard the sirens and his phone began to ring. He knew immediately something was wrong and ran out to the scene.
Siarah Vegas said she had just started allowing the two to walk to school together. It would be their last chance to do so until high school.
"It was their moment in the morning," Vegas said. "Adrian's at that age where he wants to take more responsibility. I would watch them walk down the street. You think, 'How much can happen?' "
Saturday was Adrian's first day back from the hospital, where he had two screws put into his leg. It will take as long as three months to heal.
He rested his cast on a pillow while playing video games next to his dog Peanut.
Adrian doesn't remember much about the collision. He described being in the air as if he were doing a cartwheel, then everything went black.
Paramedics had to cut from Adrian's shoulders his favorite Quiksilver backpack, which he earned by doing chores and yardwork. Siarah Vegas said parents at Fair Oaks Elementary plan to raise money to replace it.
Adrian shrugs off any great importance of his actions, calling them just an "instinct."
What Adrian's really concerned about is showing up at his school band concert, even though he can't play the drums yet.
He pleads with his mom: Can he, crutches, cast and all, be there in the audience?
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.