Monday, February 8 , 2016, 3:03 pm | Fair 79º

Hit-and-Run Victim Was a Former Santa Barbara High Baseball Coach

Witnesses say 22-year-old Simon Chavez staggered in traffic on the freeway before being struck and killed

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper | updated logo 12:30 p.m. |

Simon Chavez, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Highway 101 on Tuesday, coached Santa Barbara High School's junior varsity team last year. (Jennifer Nichoson photo /
Simon Chavez, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Highway 101 on Tuesday, coached Santa Barbara High School’s junior varsity team last year. (Jennifer Nichoson photo /

A 22-year-old pedestrian who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Highway 101 early Tuesday was a former Santa Barbara High School baseball player and coach.

Simon Chavez of Santa Barbara was fatally injured at about 1 a.m. Tuesday after several witnesses reported he was staggering in traffic on the freeway, according to Kelly Hoover, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

Santa Barbara police and California Highway Patrol officers responded to the scene within minutes, but they found Chavez dead on the southbound freeway between the Ortega Street foot bridge and the Castillo Street offramp, CHP Officer James Richards said.

The motorist who struck Chavez had fled the scene, and Richards said investigators believe the suspect was in a white Hyundai and kept driving southbound on Highway 101. Investigators determined the Hyundai had contact damage to the passenger-side front and side, and its passenger-side door mirror was located in the traffic lanes. Anyone with information about the driver is asked to call the CHP office at 805.967.1234.

Fred Warrecker, head coach of the Santa Barbara High baseball team had coached Chavez since his freshman year of high school, and worked with him while Chavez coached the junior varsity team.

Warrecker said he learned of Chavez’s death Wednesday morning, and was preparing to talk to the team at practice that afternoon.

“We’re all just shocked,” he said. “I don’t know what in the world he was doing on the freeway.”

Chavez graduated in 2008, and began coaching the junior varsity team two years ago.

“He was so positive about his own baseball experience that he wanted to stay around and volunteer,” said Michael Cooney, an assistant coach with the team. “He did a good job. The players liked him, the coaches liked him.

“He played a number of positions. He was never a star, but had a great attitude.”

Warrecker said Chavez was with the team almost every weekend and was always reliable.

Chavez had recently scaled back on coaching so he could take more units at Santa Barbara City College, where Warrecker said he was working toward his goal of becoming a teacher and a coach.

“You just couldn’t picture Simon without a smile,” he said. “He always wanted to help in any way he could.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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.

» on 01.17.13 @ 03:24 PM

Not to sound unsympathetic to the “pedestrian” but it sounds like the driver was the victim.
Since when are we supposed to be looking out for people staggering around on the FREEWAY? It’s like when a deer runs out in front of a car. No one blames the driver or expects them to stop. It’s just an unfortunate accident. And I definitely feel worse for the deer since they’re obviously unaware of the consequences of crossing the street at the wrong time.
Shouldn’t a person know better than to be walking around on the FREEWAY! Was he drunk or on drugs? Whose fault is that? Not the driver’s.

» on 01.17.13 @ 06:27 PM

Very sad to see a young person die but I agree, the driver most likely was not at fault, unless there is proof he swerved to hit the young man, which is unlikely.  But, he should have stopped, that was the right thing to do.

» on 01.17.13 @ 07:04 PM

Yes, the driver should have stopped.
I just feel that calling the accident a “hit & run”, like it was blatant recklessness and disregard on the part of the driver who “fled the scene” like they were running away from their crime, seems unfair.

» on 01.18.13 @ 01:22 PM

In this case the “run” part of “hit and run” is where the blatant irresponsibility happened. That driver needs a serious consequence.

» on 01.19.13 @ 07:14 PM

First of all this is someone’s son, dear friend, and coach. Simon was one of the best people you will never get to know. So have sensitivity before posting comments that are filled with assumptions. You have no idea how much his friends and family are in pain over what happened.

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