There were 69,910 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What were your top five stories?
Jordan Soto was a popular barista at The Daily Grind in Santa Barbara, where she crafted coffee and other drinks for the last two years. But the 24-year-old single mom’s pride and joy was her 6-month-old son, Dominic Dash, whose pictures she never tired of showing off.
These days, pictures of Baby Dash and his mom are displayed prominently at The Daily Grind’s two locations — at 2001 and 2912 De la Vina St. — as employees try to raise money to support the infant while coming to grips with Soto’s sudden death from an undisclosed cause on Jan. 30.
“She was part of our family here,” co-owner Yolanda Gonzalez told our Gina Potthoff. “We are a very tight-knit group of people. We thought, ‘Is there something we can do for her and for the baby?’
“It’s been a very difficult time for us all.”
The coffee and juice bar has created a Jordan Soto Memorial Fund with the hope of raising $15,000 for Baby Dash. In its first week, Gonzalez said, customers donated more than $9,000 to the cause.
Gonzalez described Soto as a vibrant young woman who remembered her regular customers’ orders and their names.
Another week, another wrong-way driver on Highway 101. This time, the driver died in a fiery explosion after plowing into two other cars.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Timothy Morhar, 44, of Newbury Park, was driving south in the northbound lanes near Santa Monica Road in Carpinteria about 1 a.m. Feb. 17.
Morhar’s Infiniti I-30 first struck a Nissan Altima driven by Rosie Bermudez, 32, of Goleta, before slamming into a Honda Odyssey driven by another Goleta resident, 47-year-old Phucthanh Le, the CHP said.
The Infiniti caught fire and Morhar, who was trapped in the wreckage, died at the scene, the CHP reported.
Le’s van also caught fire, but he and his three passengers — including two children, ages 13 and 5 — were able to escape. Le suffered major injuries and was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. One passenger, Thoi Phan, 36, of Goleta, had minor injuries but the children were unhurt.
Bermudez and her passenger, Manuel Partida, 32, of Goleta, suffered minor injuries, and also were taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment.
The CHP said it had been alerted to the wrong-way driver when he was in Summerland — 4½ miles from the crash site! Although CHP units were racing to the scene, they were unable to overtake him. Officers say Morhar apparently had been involved in a separate noninjury collision shortly before the fatal wreck.
The circumstances of the crash remain under investigation, and the CHP has not yet announced whether alcohol or drugs were a factor.
Click here for KEYT News Channel 3’s report on the crash.
An Amtrak bus driver lost consciousness and died while traveling on Highway 101 in Santa Maria early Feb. 14 but the quick actions of two passengers averted further catastrophe.
Authorities say the driver suffered some kind of a medical emergency around 7:10 a.m. just after picking up passengers in Santa Maria for the run north to Hanford. As the driver lost consciousness, the bus veered into the center railing of the Santa Maria River Bridge south of Donovan Road.
“Two female passengers grabbed the steering wheel and were able to safely pull the bus over to the right shoulder,” California Highway Patrol Officer David Medina said.
CHP officers and American Medical Response EMTs administered CPR, but the driver was pronounced dead. The name of the victim, a 42-year-old Los Osos resident, has not been released.
“It was a very significant incident,” Santa Maria fire Battalion Chief Ed Hadfield told our Lara Cooper. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the driver, but had it not been for the quick actions of the passengers, this could have been a horrific scene.”
The incident remains under investigation. To the disappointment of Noozhawk readers, the two heroic passengers asked that their identities not be disclosed and they’ve declined media requests for comment.
Toro Canyon Road resident Katrin Grienitz and Southern California Edison are at odds over a Feb. 11 brush fire that burned way too close to home ... and her horses.
Grienitz told our Giana Magnoli that the night before the blaze she called Edison to report uneven power at her house, even though her neighbors seemed to be unaffected. According to Grienitz, the Edison rep informed her that the problems were part of a “scheduled outage” in her neighborhood. Perplexed and more than a little miffed, she went to bed.
At 5:30 a.m. the next day, a neighbor woke her up to alert her that flames were burning perilously close to the corral containing her beloved horses. Nearby residents rushed to her property and began battling the blaze before fire trucks could make their way up the canyon. The professional help took about 30 minutes to arrive while gusty conditions made it seem like an eternity.
“We were expecting the worst, let’s put it that way,” Grienitz said.
The half-acre fire was caused by lower-voltage power lines “affected by a tree,” Edison public affairs region manager Rudy Gonzales told Noozhawk later.
But an angry Grienitz says the fire could have been prevented — if the call-taker had handled it differently. To add to the mystery, Edison says it has no record of her call the night of Feb. 10.
“Normally for no lights or part lights, we would dispatch someone (to the scene) with the trouble order ticket,” Gonzales said. “The Tuesday morning call is the first call of record that we have for that area.”
Six international college students thought it would be fun to hike to the popular Seven Pools area above Mission Canyon on Feb. 15 to enjoy another spectacular Santa Barbara sunset. Apparently, no one considered how difficult it would be to hike back down the trail after the sun set.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said the six hikers, Chinese students at UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College, realized their predicament and, with darkness fast approaching, “called 9-1-1 to report they were lost, without lights, dehydrated and starting to get cold.”
The sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team was dispatched but, while en route, a group of four hikers descending from Arlington Peak heard cries for help. Two of the four climbed up to the stranded students on a steep slope above one of the pools and helped guide them down with the illumination from their headlamps, Hoover said.
The students were all in good condition, she said.
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Congratulations to longtime Hawks Club member Patricia Griffin, who won our drawing for two tickets at the Noozhawk table for the Feb. 28 Westmont President’s Breakfast. This year’s speaker is microfinance pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus. If you’d like to go, click here to purchase tickets online.
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The snow is alive! A massive avalanche is caught on video in South Tyrol in northern Italy. It’s not clear whether it obeyed the local traffic laws, but it mostly followed the road down the mountain. Although property damage was extensive, the village had been evacuated hours before because of avalanche risk.
(Thomas Ennemoser video)
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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.