The accident happened after the two drivers, Dustin Whitney, 29, of Petaluma and Andres Bowers, 30, of Windsor, had been drinking alcohol at the Russian River with friends, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said.
Whitney had his 4-year-old and 1-year-old sons in his 1997 Nissan Pathfinder when it collided with Bowers' Dodge truck on River Road at Trenton-Healdsburg Road in unincorporated Sonoma County southwest of Windsor around 6:35 p.m., Sloat said.
After the crash, the men removed the children from Whitney's car, placed them in Bowers' truck and pushed the damaged Nissan out of the roadway, according to the CHP.
A short time later, CHP Officer Brian Wood, who was driving to the Sonoma County Jail with a DUI suspect, came upon the accident scene. Bowers told him Whitney was the driver of the Nissan in the ditch, Sloat said.
While Wood was talking to Whitney, Bowers drove away with the children in his truck, Sloat said.
Whitney was arrested on suspicion of DUI and taken to Sonoma County Jail. Witnesses told the CHP that Whitney's children were with him at the time of the accident, but Whitney refused to help the CHP find them, Sloat said.
Windsor police contacted the CHP at 12:23 a.m. Sunday to report that Bowers had taken the two children to the Windsor Police Department, Sloat said.
Bowers later admitted that he was involved in the crash and had taken the children from the scene so Whitney could avoid additional charges, Sloat said.
The children were reunited with their mother and were evaluated at Petaluma Valley Hospital, Sloat said.
The 4-year-old boy suffered abrasions and swelling from the seat belt and abrasions on his legs, and the 1-year-old boy was not injured, Sloat said.
Whitney has two prior DUI convictions, one for hit-and-run, and a prior citation for driving on a suspended license, Sloat said.
He was booked into jail for DUI causing injury, child endangerment, violation of probation, conspiracy and driving on a suspended license, Sloat said.
He is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned in Sonoma County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon.
Bowers may also face charges, including conspiracy, Sloat said.