The wreck took a freeway full of commuters by surprise, many of whom made heroic efforts to help the family, who were in serious danger.
RELATED: Mother, 2 children hospitalized after fiery crash on Hwy 101 in San Rafael
"It sounded like a mini-explosion." That's what Cecilia, who did not want to share her last name, says she heard right before she saw an SUV fly across the freeway in front of her, as she was driving to work around 8 am Wednesday.
She has a dashcam in her car, which captured the moment a white Toyota SUV hit the center divider, flew across the northbound lanes of Hwy 101, spinning out another car, before careening off the side of the freeway into a grassy ditch in San Rafael.
"If I were a half-second earlier when I left the house, it would be me getting hit," said Cecilia, who added, "I was very thankful that God protected me."
ONLY ON ABC7 - this dash cam video shows a Toyota SUV hit the center divider, spin out another car, and careen across the NB lanes of Hwy 101 in San Rafael this morning. The SUV caught fire in a grassy ditch, where commuters stopped to rescue the driver and her 2 young children. pic.twitter.com/xnryFyNw1t— Kate Larsen (@KateABC7) September 19, 2019
After the crash, Cecilia's dashcam shows a bus and cars pulling over on the side of the freeway, just past the St. Vincent on-ramp.
Daniel Novak was driving one of those cars.
"I could see down the hill, that there was this SUV, that the front was on fire," said Daniel, who quickly made the decision to risk his own safety to help. "Another truck pulled up behind me and these two guys got out and the three of us just immediately ran down the hill through the brush, and as we got there, they were getting the kids out of the back seat."
Daniel said other Good Samaritans carried the mother and her six-year-old daughter up the hill and away from the burning SUV, while he carried the woman's three-year-old son.
"His eyes were open, he wasn't speaking, he was gasping for breath."
Daniel says he got the boy to the side of the road, where help quickly arrived.
"I told him it was going to be okay, held onto his hand until the paramedic lady showed up and I've been refreshing the news all day trying to find out how he's doing."
The CHP said Wednesday night that the boy and his sister were still in critical condition at Oakland Children's hospital.
The CHP is still investigating the crash, but based on witness statements, believe the children were restrained in car seats.
Their mother was also in critical condition at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek as of Wednesday night.