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DA’s Office Decides Driver Won’t Be Charged in Collision That Killed Jogger

Ryuta Yamaguchi, 45, of Santa Ynez died in December when he was struck by a minivan driven by 89-year-old Grace Cota of Solvang

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

The elderly driver who struck and killed a 45-year-old Santa Ynez man while he was jogging last December in the Santa Ynez Valley will not face criminal charges for her part in the collision, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

Ryuta Yamaguchi was jogging north on Refugio Road near Deer Trail Lane shortly after 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2013, when he was struck, according to the California Highway Patrol, which completed its own investigation before handing the case over to the DA’s Office.

Yamaguchi was hit by Grace Cota, 89, of Solvang, who had been driving a Ford minivan eastbound on Deer Trail before stopping at Refugio Road, CHP Officer John Ortega said.

Yamaguchi was transported to Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Brooke Gerard told Noozhawk the driver could have been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter if enough evidence had been present to prove negligence beyond a reasonable doubt.

“They couldn’t establish that her behavior rose to the level of criminal negligence,” Gerard said of law enforcement’s investigation. “We reviewed it as well, and came to the same conclusion.”

At the time of the collision, CHP wouldn’t offer details about what might have caused the minivan to strike Yamaguchi as both entered the intersection, although intoxication did not appear to be a factor in the accident.

On Tuesday, CHP offered little else, citing insufficient evidence in the case to file charges and confirming that alcohol was not a factor in the collision.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




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