Thursday, May 26 , 2016, 4:50 am | Fair 54º

Airman Who Died in Highway 1 Crash Remembered in Memorial Service at Vandenberg AFB

By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor | @JaneneScully |

Vandenberg Air Force Base hosted a memorial service in honor of Senior Airman Nicholas DiBona on Friday, 12 days after he died in a traffic accident on Highway 1 north of Santa Lucia Canyon Road.

“Heavy hearts on VAFB today as we remember SrA DiBona's life and military service. He will not be forgotten,” Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, said on social media Friday morning.

The California Highway Patrol said the July 13 accident occurred at 4:22 p.m. when the 2006 black Subaru was southbound on Highway 1 at a high rate of speed and drifted off the right side of the roadway. The vehicle overturned down an embankment and was not visible from the roadway, the CHP said.

DiBona, 21, of Fuquay-Varina, N.C., was sitting in the right front passenger seat and declared dead at the scene.

The driver, Donald W.S. Cox, 21, and another passenger, John C. Rivera, 22, both of Lompoc, suffered moderate injuries, the CHP said.

Both of them also serve in the Air Force, a Vandenberg spokeswoman said Friday, but refused to identify their ranks or units.

The CHP said Friday the cause of the accident remains under investigation.

“At this point, any charges are pending the outcome of the investigation,” CHP Officer John Ortega said.

DiBona was a 2011 graduate of Fuquay-Varina High School in North Carolina and served in the Air Force for nearly three years, according to his obituary. A funeral Mass was held Monday in North Carolina.

"The loss of one of our own is a tragedy, and we are leaning on each other across the base to make it through this difficult time,” Balts said. "The fact that SrA. Dibona's life was just beginning only adds to the sense of loss we feel. Our hearts and prayers go out to this young Airman's family, friends and co-workers."

Coincidentally, Friday’s memorial was the second service this week on the Central Coast in honor of airmen killed in traffic accidents on July 13.

A funeral for Airman 1st Class Andrew Padilla, 22, was held in Santa Maria on Wednesday, 10 days after he died in a car crash in Clovis, N.M. The passenger in a Hyundai, Padilla was ejected when the vehicle rolled over several times early July 13 and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a Clovis Police Department news release.

The driver, Tylan Bolden, 20, who also serves in the Air Force, lost control of the vehicle as it was traveling at a high rate of speed, police added. Alcohol is believed to be factor in the crash which remains under investigation, according to police.

Padilla was from Santa Maria but was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The two deaths with Central Coast connections fell in the midst of the  Air Force’s annual safety capping dubbed 101 Critical Days of Summer. Air Force leaders emphasize safety on and off-duty for airmen and their families between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

The theme of this year’s campaign, “Risk: Double Checks, Not Second Thoughts,” is aimed at reminding airmen to take care of themselves, their families, and their teammates.
Air Force officials reminded key factors leading to these fatal accidents include alcohol, speed, distractions, and fatigue, said.

“As you participate in summer activities with your family and friends use what you have learned about risk management,” Air Force leaders told military members. “Plan for the unexpected and avoid unnecessary risks. Embrace safety as the foundation of our core values. Enjoy the warm weather; get out and have fun, but always keep safety in mind.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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