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Bill Macfadyen: Details Scant but No Flu Proof in Cleveland School Sixth-Grader’s Death

This NoozWeek includes a dog-gone shooting, John Travolta, Chick-fil-A, a suspect in the death of Simon Chavez, and a tribute to Tina Coffin

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Cleveland School Mourning Sudden Death of Student

A Cleveland School sixth-grader died unexpectedly Jan. 17, breaking her family’s heart and leaving her classmates and teachers reeling.

Neither the cause of death nor the girl’s identity have been released, and details in the case have been vague. Speculation had centered on the flu, which has taken a deadly toll across the country this winter, but Santa Barbara County Public Health Department officials told Noozhawk’s Giana Magnoli that no flu deaths have been reported locally for anyone under 64.

“This has been a very sad time for the Cleveland School community, but they’re pulling together and consoling each other,” said Barbara Keyani, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Keyani said the girl’s family had requested privacy for the time being so the district has not released additional details.

2. Santa Barbara Man Mourns Shooting Death of Dog by Hunters

Billy R.I.P.
Billy R.I.P.

A 45-pound rescue terrier named Billy was shot and killed Jan. 15 on the Santa Cruz Trail in Los Padres National Forest after hunters reportedly mistook the animal for a wild dog.

Billy’s owner, Ian Malloch, 32, of Santa Barbara, heard the gunfire while on the hike and ran after his unleashed dog, but it was too late. Billy was dead.

“It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever gone through,” Malloch told Noozhawk’s Gina Potthoff. “I was definitely emotional. I loved that dog. Everybody loved him. I think most people would see it as a shock.”

Authorities say the two hunters, both from the Los Angeles area, were hunting feral pigs in season, with legal gun permits and hunting licenses. A U.S. Forest Service spokesman said their actions were legal and no criminal charges were filed.

Noozhawk readers had the last word, however, and dozens weighed in with their opinions.

“If you can be frightened by a small/medium sized dog, you probably shouldnt be hunting pig,” wrote GeeWillikersWally. “Many of the most experienced pig hunters I have known use dogs of their own and probably would not blast a loose dog.”

Rambler wasn’t buying the hunters’ explanation.

“The wild dog excuse is total BS,” read the comment. “I guess we’re lucky they didn’t get in an argument with another human being, or BAM!”

Topics of the debate included unleashed dogs, responsible dog ownership, hunter safety basics, and untrained and inexperienced “jackholes” from Los Angeles, as Voice of Reason put it.

3. John Travolta Civil Case to Be Heard in Santa Barbara County

Few people admit to reading celebrity sex stories but the analytics don’t lie: Somebody’s reading them. The travails of John Travolta had all the makings of a chart climber, and his performance didn’t disappoint.

The actor has been involved in a long-running civil suit with Douglas Gotterba, his former pilot and alleged gay lover. The case apparently hinges on a confidentiality agreement about the nature of their relationship and a he said, he said dispute over who said what to whom.

Travolta wants the court hearing moved to Los Angeles but Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Donna Geck declined to play along, ruling that it will be held here, where Gotterba lived at the time the contract was signed.

4. BizHawk: Chick-fil-A Opening on State Street in Santa Barbara

To the relief of a herd of rogue cows and their Eat Mor Chikin guerrilla marketing campaign, Santa Barbara’s new Chick-fil-A restaurant is set to open Feb. 7 at 3707 State St.

Chick-fil-A offers an array of menu items, but beef isn’t among them. What’s more, the new restaurant bears little resemblance to the old Burger King joint on the site. But the convenient drive-through window remains.

5. Murrieta Man Arrested in Hit-Run Death of Simon Chavez

Simon Chavez
Simon Chavez

It took authorities just a week to find the alleged hit-and-run driver involved in the death of a Santa Barbara man on Highway 101 near downtown. Incredibly, the suspect — 78-year-old Lau Van Huynh — was tracked down and arrested at his home in Murrietta, nearly 200 miles away in Riverside County.

Simon Chavez, 22, of Santa Barbara, was struck about 1 a.m. Jan. 15 as he staggered in traffic on the southbound freeway near the Ortega Street footbridge. The motorist who hit him fled the scene, but left behind was a broken driver’s-side mirror from a 2011 Hyundai Tucson. It may have been a key bit of evidence for detectives.

Huynh was arrested Jan. 22 and charged with felony hit and run, and hit and run with fatal injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol. He was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

No one is quite sure what Chavez was doing on the freeway, but the investigation is continuing. Chavez was a former Santa Barbara High School baseball player and a popular coach of the junior varsity team before he stepped down to enroll at Santa Barbara City College.

                                                                  •        •        •

My friend, Tina Coffin, died Jan. 28 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was just 66.

Tina Coffin, 1946-2013
Tina Coffin, 1946-2013

The cause of death was described as respiratory failure but it was pulmonary fibrosis that killed her. The largely hereditary disease gradually scars and damages the lungs until it strangles its victims of their breath.

Although a lung transplant can help, and Tina had one, there is no cure. Having watched helplessly as my late father-in-law, Ted Gaylord, fought his own courageous but unsuccessful battle with pulmonary fibrosis, I’m well aware of how miserable it is.

In spite of her death sentence, however, Tina Coffin was one of the most relentlessly cheerful people you’ll ever meet, and it was a privilege to have known her. She lived to serve, and her volunteer efforts are legendary.

For more than six years, she faithfully ministered to our parish, All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church, as newcomer coordinator, and I cannot imagine how many red-rose stickers she handed out in that time. Inspired to help with emergency preparedness, she volunteered with the Montecito Emergency Response and Recovery Action Group (MERRAG), and later was elected to its board.

In addition to church, Tina and her husband, Dwight, actively supported Ensemble Theatre Company, the Music Academy of the West and the Santa Barbara Newcomers Club. Before her health began to deteriorate, they were just about everywhere.

Tina was devoted to Dwight and enormously proud of their family, including an assortment of grandchildren and her parents, who live in Montecito. The Coffins are a first-class clan, and the loss of this beautiful and bubbly matriarch will be deeply felt.

At 2 p.m. Feb. 2, Tina’s friends will have a chance to celebrate her life with a memorial service at All Saints Church, 83 Eucalyptus Lane in Montecito. Contributions in her memory are encouraged for All Saints, Ensemble Theatre or MERRAG.

                                                                  •        •        •

There were 54,598 people who read Noozhawk this past week. January’s total visits came within a few hundred of our previous record, set in October 2012 with nearly 245,000.

In another sign of Noozhawk’s growing strength, our January page views were 83 percent higher than a year ago, our overall visits are up 56 percent, we have 33 percent more unique visitors, and readers are looking at 17 percent more pages per visit.

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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