Thursday, September 3 , 2015, 4:36 pm | Fair 75.0º




Bill Macfadyen: Small-Plane Crash Spurs Big Traffic with Search for Missing Pilot

NoozWeek's Top 5 squeezes in some laughs, bails out a jailbird, reports on the flu taking a deadly shot, and wraps up with child porn and ex-Dr. Julio Diaz

Search crews were quickly on the scene of a small-plane crash off Oceano, but no victims have been recovered.

Search crews were quickly on the scene of a small-plane crash off Oceano, but no victims have been recovered.  (David Middlecamp / San Luis Obispo Tribune photo)

By William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher | @noozhawk | updated logo |

What were you reading on Noozhawk this week?

1. Human Remains Found After Plane Crashes Into Water Near Oceano

Although search teams have not recovered any bodies, San Luis Obispo County authorities have identified the apparent pilot of a small plane that crashed Jan. 14 off Oceano.

Matt Fountain of The Tribune of San Luis Obispo reported that the county Sheriffs Department believes David Brian Casey, 63, of Friday Harbor, Wash., was flying the single-engine plane, which reportedly crashed about 1:45 p.m.

Officials say a wallet belonging to Casey and other debris was found at the apparent crash site, a mile from the Pier Avenue ramp in about 70 feet of water.

It is not yet known where the two-seater Morrisey 2150 aircraft departed from, where it was headed or how many people were aboard at the time it hit the water.

Norm Staswick of Pismo Beach was on the beach near Pier Avenue when he heard what he said sounded like a plane engine overhead. Shortly afterward, he described hearing an explosion, although he said he never saw any aircraft.

“I definitely heard a loud boom,” he said.

2. Santa Barbara Firefighters Rescue Man Wedged Between Walls of Downtown Building

After a night of drinking, do you ever feel like the walls are closing in on you? (Urban Hikers photo)
After a night of drinking, do you ever feel like the walls are closing in on you? (Urban Hikers photo)

A highly intoxicated man apparently decided to try the straight and narrow early Jan. 12, only to find himself wedged between a wall and ... another wall. Fortunately for him, Santa Barbara firefighters were able to figure out a way to get him out of his tight spot.

The 23-year-old man somehow managed to wedge himself between a building and the block wall of an adjacent utility area behind the 99¢ Only Store, 424 State St., fire Capt. Steve Berman told our Tom Bolton.

“It was one of those calls I’ve never had in my career,” Berman said.

The space was only about 10 inches wide, and the man was lying down about 15 feet in — not exactly the roomiest of working conditions.

Fire crews fashioned a rope system using ladders from above, and Berman said a firefighter was able to lasso the man’s foot so he could be hoisted to safety.

The man, whose identity was not disclosed, was uninjured in the squeeze play.

“The police decided he had been through enough, and there was no need to press charges,” Berman laughed.

Ronald Anthony Beltran's family says he wanted police attention. On Jan. 12 he got it. (Urban Hikers photo)
Ronald Anthony Beltran’s family says he wanted police attention. On Jan. 12 he got it. (Urban Hikers photo)

3. Attempted-Murder Suspect Re-Arrested after Minivan Set Ablaze on Lower Eastside

An apparent one-man crime spree has led to the re-arrest of Ronald Anthony Beltran, a suspect in the attempted murder of a family member. Hopefully, the dude will be behind bars longer than he was the first time.

Ronald Anthony Beltran is staying in the loop at the Santa Barbara County Jail. (Santa Barbara Police Department photo)
Ronald Anthony Beltran is staying in the loop at the Santa Barbara County Jail. (Santa Barbara Police Department photo)

Beltran’s 2014 troubles began Jan. 5 after a fight with a family member at the residence they shared in the 1100 block of North Milpas Street. Santa Barbara police say Beltran stabbed the man in the back while he was taking a shower, then fled the house. Later that day, he returned and allegedly stole the victim’s truck.

Hours later, the California Highway Patrol found the truck abandoned that night after a single-vehicle collision in the 700 block of Old Coast Highway. Police Sgt. Riley Harwood said officers eventually caught up with Beltran, who was arrested and booked into County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, auto theft, hit and run, and resisting or delaying an officer.

He initially was held without bail, but the story doesn’t end here and we'll come back to this in a minute.

A week later, on the afternoon of Jan. 12, firefighters were dispatched to Gutierrez and Quarantina streets, where a minivan had been set ablaze.

According to police Lt. Jim Pfleging, Beltran’s beleaguered family called about the same time to report that their kooky kin was planning to torch his vehicle and wanted a police officer to kill him.

Beltran was spotted by officers about 10 minutes later and they chased him into Ortega Park.

“As he was being chased, he stopped and intimated that he had weapon,” Pfleging said. “He reached for his belt, then took off running again.”

Moments later, he said, one of the pursuing officers fired a taser, dropping Beltran in his tracks. Beltran, who was carrying a knife, was arrested on charges of arson, felony brandishing of a weapon and possession of a deadly weapon.

So, how did a suspect being held without bail on an attempted murder charge ... get out of jail?

Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter told our Tom Bolton that when Beltran went to court, the charge filed against him was assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, not attempted murder. As a result, he was released Jan. 9 after posting $90,000 bail.

Bail is set at $500,000 for his latest caper. You’d best beware anyway.

4. Flu Season Claims First Fatality in Santa Barbara County

A Santa Barbara County woman in her 20s has died from complications related to influenza, county Public Health Department officials reported Jan. 14. She’s the first local fatality of this year’s flu season.

Susan Klein-Rothschild, a health department spokeswoman, said details about the victim would not be released to protect her confidentiality. She added that the woman had not received a recent flu vaccine.

If this inspires you to get a flu shot, click here for a list of local health-care providers and pharmacists administering the vaccine.

5. UCSB Student Arrested on Child Porn, Drug Charges

A 19-year-old UC Santa Barbara student was arrested after Santa Barbara County sheriff’s detectives caught him allegedly manufacturing concentrated cannibis in his Isla Vista backyard. Then things took a turn for the perverse.

Scott Lienhart apparently kept himself busy during UCSB's winter break. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department photo)
Scott Lienhart apparently kept himself busy during UCSB’s winter break. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Scott Lienhart, 19, was arrested Jan. 8 when deputies interrupted his home chemistry experiment while searching for one of his roommates, who allegedly had fled a citation for minor in possession of alcohol.

A search warrant was obtained for the apartment in the 6600 block of Sabado Tarde Road, and Hoover said the investigation turned up child pornography on Lienhart’s smartphone.

Lienhart was arrested Jan. 14 on charges of possession of child pornography as well as charges of manufacturing drugs by use of chemical means and possession of a controlled substance.

                                                                 •        •        •

Hasta nunca, Dr. Julio Diaz. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)
Hasta nunca, Dr. Julio Diaz. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

Just missing NoozWeek’s Top 5 was our Lara Cooper’s story on disgraced Santa Barbara physician Julio Diaz pleading guilty to federal charges of overprescribing narcotics.

As Noozhawk readers will remember, Diaz, 65, of Goleta, was arrested in early 2012 during a raid by Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The longtime operator of a family medical clinic on Milpas Street was linked to 11 drug-related patient deaths and more than 400 drug-related emergency room visits in a two-year period.

On Jan. 9 he pleaded guilty in federal court to 11 counts of distributing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose. He’ll be held in jail until his June 2 sentencing, when he faces a maximum sentence of 200 years in federal prison and fines of up to $10 million.

Noozhawk broke the story of Diaz’s arrest in 2012. Prior to the bust, multiple sources — including pharmacists, emergency-room doctors, families and law enforcement — insisted that he had continuously overprescribed pain medication.

Emergency room doctors at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital told Noozhawk that the ER was flooded with patients going through withdrawal after Diaz’s arrest cut off their supply of drugs.

At least five family members of his patients who died of drug overdoses are seeking damages in civil court.

Click here for the complete series index to Noozhawk’s Prescription for Abuse series, a special project exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County.

The six-week investigative series, published in the fall of 2011, was the result of a partnership with USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which awarded Noozhawk a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship to undertake the project.

                                                                         •        •

Clayton Kershaw has the nastiest curveball in baseball and now the sweetest deal. The other Left Arm of God is worth every penny of his new $215 million contract.

(DownedAndRound video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.




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