Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 5:41 pm | Fair 66º


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Bill Macfadyen: Paula Lopez’s Absence, and Silence, Keep the Story Alive

Camarillo Springs Fire, alleged contracting without a license, a harrowing plunge off Highway 154, and student entrepreneurs round out the NoozWeek Top 5

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. KEYT’s Paula Lopez Absent Again from Newscasts

KEYT News anchor Paula Lopez mysteriously disappeared from her home in February, turned up hours later, then went on hiatus to tend to what was described as a “medical condition” before returning to the air April 8.

KEYT News anchor Paula Lopez during her April 8 return to the air. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
KEYT News anchor Paula Lopez during her April 8 return to the air. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

In an exclusive interview just before her heralded return, she told Noozhawk’s Gina Potthoff that she was “extremely happy to be back today.” The homecoming was short-lived, however, and she hasn’t been seen on the telecast since April 19, Gina reported May 2.

KEYT general manager Mark Danielson told Noozhawk that he couldn’t comment on an employee’s health or personal issues. That’s the appropriate response; it’s not the company’s story to tell. While we wish Paula well and hope her recovery is a swift one, the fact remains there is enormous interest in her situation — for a variety of reasons. I wonder if greater transparency wouldn’t serve her and her family better.

Noozhawk readers have not been similarly constrained, and a spirited debate exploded in the story’s comments section. Click here to add your voice.

Meanwhile, thanks are due our friends at Media Bistro for picking up and promoting our story. The May 6 shout-out directed several hundred extra reads our way.

2. Camarillo Springs Fire Spreads to 28,000 Acres and Growing

When it was finally contained May 7, the Camarillo Springs Fire had burned across 43 square miles of Ventura County since igniting five days earlier along Highway 101 on the Conejo Grade.

The 28,000-acre wildfire menaced heavily populated neighborhoods of Camarillo, Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village, and forced the evacuation of CSU Channel Islands. Miraculously, few homes were damaged and only a handful of outbuildings were destroyed. There were no deaths and only minor injuries.

The cause of the blaze remained under investigation, but officials have ruled out arson.

3. Santa Barbara Man Accused of Contracting Without a License

I’m not sure what it is about construction scams but reader traffic builds whenever we write about the alleged misdeeds. In the latest case, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office announced the arrest of a Santa Barbara man who allegedly was involved in a series of unlicensed contracting jobs around Goleta.

Mario Hernandez Serrano, also known as Mario Serrano Hernandez, 52, was taken into custody May 7 and is facing charges of felony diversion of construction funds, felony grand theft, felony tax evasion, contracting without a license, and failing to obtain workers compensation insurance, the District Attorney’s Office said.

The arrest was the result of a six-month joint investigation by DA’s investigators, the Contractors State License Board and the Franchise Tax Board. A string of complaints filed by Goleta homeowners prompted the probe.

Deputy District Attorney Gary Gemberling noted that conducting business as a contractor without a license and insurance is illegal, except under very limited circumstances. He encouraged homeowners who think they may be victims to contact him at 805.568.2372, or to contact local law enforcement or the Contractors State License Board.

Emergency workers assist the victims of a May 6 car crash on Highway 154 near Santa Barbara. The couple's SUV drove off the side of the roadway and landed on its roof about 200 feet down the mountainside. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
Emergency workers assist the victims of a May 6 car crash on Highway 154 near Santa Barbara. The couple’s SUV drove off the side of the roadway and landed on its roof about 200 feet down the mountainside. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

4. Two Hurt as SUV Plunges 200 Feet Over Side of Highway 154

Two people were injured, one seriously, on May 6 when their SUV drifted off rain-slickened Highway 154 and plunged down the mountainside. The 2000 Mitsubishi Montero landed on its roof about 200 feet below the road.

According to California Highway Patrol Officer James Richards, another motorist saw the vehicle drive over the edge about 8:30 a.m., just west of San Antonio Creek Road near Santa Barbara.

The Montero’s driver, Oscar Ortega, 44, of Los Angeles, was injured but was able to get out of the vehicle with the help of CHP Officer Daniel Ayala, who had scrambled down to the wreckage. Ortega’s companion, Maribel Garcia, 45, also of Los Angeles, suffered major injuries and had to be extricated. Both victims were transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The cause of the crash was under investigation. No further details were available.

The faces of the future at the UC Santa Barbara Next Generation Summit. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
The faces of the future at the UC Santa Barbara Next Generation Summit. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

5. UCSB Student Entrepreneurs Step Into Future with Next Generation Summit

More than 100 student entrepreneurs from throughout California and beyond gathered at UC Santa Barbara last weekend for the inaugural Next Generation Summit.

Hosted by UCSB’s Entrepreneurs Association, the event featured two full days of seven keynote speakers — most of them local entrepreneurs — and a series of one-hour workshops focused on technology, environment, business and education, arts and entertainment, health and psychology, and physical and life sciences. In between there was plenty of pizza, the fuel for thought for college kids everywhere.

“We have so many different majors, so many different backgrounds,” UCSB senior Kiyan Rajab, the summit’s founder and director, told Noozhawk’s Gina Potthoff.

“We’re creating the connection. There are so many young people out there who would love this opportunity.”

                                                                  •        •        •

Since you’ve read this far, here’s a bonus link for your trouble: A peregrine falcon goes duck hunting.

                                                                  •        •        •

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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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