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Driver Accused in Fatal Crash with Pedestrian Scheduled to Appear in Juvenile Court

The towing company mistakenly destroys the minivan involved in last May's death of a Montecito woman walking to a bus stop on Coast Village Road

Last May, a Montecito woman was hit and killed when she was struck by a Toyota minivan as she walked to a bus stop less than a block from her Coast Village Road home.

The driver of the minivan, then a 17-year-old boy who is scheduled to appear in Santa Barbara County Juvenile Court on Feb. 18, told authorities then that his vehicle had swerved and the brakes didn’t work. The van jumped a curb and hurled Florinda Garcia Flores, 47, into the intersection of Coast Village Road and Butterfly Lane early on the morning of May 27, 2010. The van then ran over and through a sign post, landscaping and decorative brick wall before crashing into the Bank of America building, 1096 Coast Village Road.

With cases involving juveniles — even fatal accidents — confidentiality laws can make information scarce. A blood sample was taken, the car was impounded and investigations began.

The Santa Barbara Police Department’s traffic investigation team conducted a mechanical inspection of the van, including braking, steering and throttle issues, according to Officer Mark Hunt. The collision reconstruction team worked to determine the speed of the vehicle and other details of the accident.

Hunt said video of the collision from the bank’s ATM camera definitely helped, and that the police did some filming of their own during the investigation.

About two months after the collision, once the primary investigation was completed, Hunt went back to the tow yard to take more pictures of the van, only to find out it had been destroyed.

“Someone at the tow company misunderstood and they sold the vehicle to a company in Ventura, and it was crushed down there,” Hunt said.

He said Smitty’s Towing went before the city’s Fire and Police Commission and was suspended from department work for one year.

“It’s unfortunate it got destroyed but that’s what happens,” Hunt said. “Mistakes happen, and that’s what it was.”

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office received the investigation report and filed charges in November, which are being handled by a juvenile court district attorney.

The driver, who is now 18 but can’t have his name or case number released in court, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter. He is also charged with health and safety code violations related to marijuana possession and paraphernalia, which were reportedly found in his vehicle, and three vehicle code violations related to speeding, turning movements and required signals and evidence of financial responsibility upon request.

Flores’ death was one of five fatal accidents the Police Department investigated in 2010, a higher number than previous years, Hunt said. Of six call-outs for the traffic investigation team, five were fatal. In 2009 and 2008, there were four call-outs, two of which were fatal, and nine call-outs with two fatal, respectively.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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