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Local News

Driver in Fatal Highway 154 Crash Faces Charges of Manslaughter, Felony DUI

Priscilla Susman of Santa Barbara is arrested upon release from the hospital for injuries sustained in September's five-car collision

A Santa Barbara woman believed to have caused a fatal five-car crash on Highway 154 in September was arrested Wednesday on charges of manslaughter and felony DUI.

Priscilla Ann Susman
Priscilla Ann Susman

The California Highway Patrol said Priscilla Ann Susman, 54, allegedly had been drinking before the collision that killed 73-year-old Liesel Elizabeth Ryden of Solvang, and caused serious injuries to Linda Gaytan, 53, of Santa Ynez and Jay Fortman, 55, of Santa Barbara.

Susman has been at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital since the crash for treatment of chest trauma. Santa Barbara CHP officers received an arrest warrant and took Susman into custody upon her discharge from the hospital.

According to police reports after the Sept. 15 collision, a witness watched the driver of a 1996 Nissan Pathfinder, traveling westbound toward Lake Cachuma in the area just west of Cold Spring Canyon Bridge, slow down and make a U-turn. The vehicle then headed eastbound toward Santa Barbara, and the witness noticed the motorist driving erratically and appeared to be crossing the double yellow lines.

Preparing to call 9-1-1, the witness lost sight of the Pathfinder as it ascended the hill between Stagecoach and East Camino Cielo roads. The Pathfinder then collided into the left side of a 2006 Pontiac G6. Both vehicles spun out of control, across traffic lanes and into the path of three other vehicles traveling westbound.

Two of the vehicles traveling westbound, a 1989 Saab 900 Turbo driven by Ryden and a 2005 Toyota Prius driven by Gaytan struck the Pathfinder, which went off the roadway and hit a tree. The third westbound vehicle, a 2007 BMW 328i driven by Fortman also struck the Pontiac.

Syrena Hernandez, 24, of Oxnard, the driver of the Pontiac, was not injured.

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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