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Toxicology Report Rules Out Drugs, Alcohol in ATV Deaths of Two Santa Barbara Men

Mother of victim Dan Carbonaro speaks out about the accident and the search for her son and his friend

Alcohol and drugs did not play a factor in the crash that killed two Santa Barbara men in the Mojave Desert in December, according to the Kern County Coroner’s Office.

Dan Carbonaro, 27, and Chris Rice, 29, went missing Dec. 18 near the border of San Bernardino and Kern counties after leaving the Cottage Inn Motel in Randsburg about 2:30 a.m. They were headed to Cuddeback Lake in San Bernardino County and planned for a 45-minute trip in a friend’s all-terrain vehicle, authorities said.

After a five-day search effort, authorities found the men’s bodies at the base of a 1,000-foot cliff near Government Peak. The pair died on impact of multiple blunt force trauma, according to Kelly Cowan of the Coroner’s Office.

Cowan called Carbonaro’s mother, Vasant Rechtschaffen, when she finished the toxicology report and told her it was purely an accident, Rechtschaffen told Noozhawk on Friday.

“I would like to create some clarity in case of any confusion,” Rechtschaffen said. “Cowan advised me that the toxicology report confirmed that what occurred in the desert was an accident and no drugs were in play.

“The reality is the two best friends were out in the middle of the desert to have fun where they had a terrible accident, no more no less.”

Cowan told Rechtschaffen that 99.9 percent of the time such accidents happen because of alcohol and drugs, but that wasn’t the case here, she said. Rechtschaffen said Carbonaro hadn’t been drinking much at all over the past two years because he had been on a “health kick.”

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” she said. “I couldn’t describe this in words. It’s the most unbelievable pain you could ever imagine. To have him go in that way and then to have him lost for five days — they should’ve found him the first day. It was torture.

“I still think he’s coming back, I still think he’s going to come down my porch. His sweetheart, Serena, is also waiting for him to come home. We’re still in shock.”

About 30,000 riders rode through that stretch of desert during the holiday season despite the rough terrain and numerous open mine shafts.

“As a mother, I mean look, Dan was 27, I wasn’t going to stop him from doing anything, but you know young kids are going out there and people get lost all the time,” Rechtschaffen said.

Hundreds of friends and family, even strangers, scoured the desert, the Cottage Inn Motel provided supplies and more than 1,000 people updated the Facebook group Friends of the Chris Rice and Dan Carbonaro Search.

“The people in the motel were incredible, people spent all night and day looking,” said Rechtschaffen, adding that Carbonaro would’ve done the same for his friends. “He was a lover. Dan was a very big, open, loving person, and he helped people. He was a teacher; he taught me how to ski. He loved to give what he knew.”

Rechtschaffen said she recently had a dream in which Carbonaro took his mother’s hand and went to kiss it.

“Let’s send them on their way in light,” she said. 

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik 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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