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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 2:09 am | Fair 46º


Community Reeling After Sunday’s Fatal Crash

San Marcos High grieves the loss of graduate Marcos Arredondo as family and friends hold vigil at a hospital for his injured sisters

The local community was reeling Monday after Sunday’s fatal head-on crash on Highway 101 that claimed the lives of two Goleta residents.

Marcos Arredondo, 18, and Macrina Ocampo, 58, were killed when their car was struck by a wrong-way vehicle.

Arredondo’s teenage sisters, Karina and Yessika, were in the backseat of the car and sustained serious injuries, authorities said. The girls are in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s surgical intensive care unit.

Their parents were in the car ahead of them and were able to swerve to avoid the oncoming car, the California Highway Patrol said.

Marcos graduated from San Marcos High School in June and was a varsity wide receiver for the Royals.

“He’s someone anyone would be proud to have as a son,” said Royals football coach Jeff Hesselmeyer, who was also Marcos’ teacher. He said the young player often helped him with his computer. “He was a terrific, terrific person,” he said.

Officials with San Marcos High School will approach the Board of Education on Tuesday night to discuss setting up a fund through a bank to help the family.

Hesselmeyer visited the waiting room at Cottage Hospital on Monday night and said many family and friends are supporting the Arredondos’ parents.

Dare Holdren, who coached Marcos for the past two years and teaches social studies, said everyone seemed to like him. “He was very unassuming and down to earth,” Holdren said, adding that Marcos was very social and didn’t stick to one group of students.

Holdren’s father is the receivers coach, and they talked about Marcos, remembering him as one of the hardest workers on the football field, he said.

Marcos went to SBCC after graduating but often came back to visit his alma mater, said Eli Mendez, the school’s equipment manager. “They’re a picture-perfect family,” he said. “They’re always happy.”

The football team will wear Marcos’ initials on their helmets for Friday’s home game, Mendez said.

“It gets overused, but he really was a fantastic kid,” Holdren said. “I don’t know if people out there will understand, but we all know.”

The family has been at the hospital constantly to watch over the sisters, Hesselmeyer said. Karina and Yessika both suffered traumatic head injuries. The CHP reported that the older sister also suffered broken bones, and the younger sister suffered multiple spine fractures.

“(The parents) are going to need a lot of help,” Mendez said.

Both girls were students at San Marcos, a teacher said.

“A lot of kids are feeling it today,” Holdren said. The school has counselors available for anyone who needs them, and some teachers have brought up the subject in their classes.

Sunday’s accident occurred about 1:20 a.m. CHP Sgt. Matt Dawson said an off-duty Santa Barbara County sheriff’s sergeant encountered a vehicle driving north in the southbound lanes near Fairview Avenue about 1:17 a.m. She swerved to avoid a collision and called dispatch, which notified other sheriff’s personnel and the CHP.

Less than two minutes later, according to Dawson, a sheriff’s deputy near the southbound Storke Road on-ramp observed the wrong-way vehicle approaching, but there were two cars ahead of him. The driver of the first car saw the deputy’s emergency lights behind him and swerved right, narrowly avoiding the oncoming car. The second car did not swerve, however, and the deputy saw it collide head-on with the wrong-way vehicle.

The crash spun the wrong-way vehicle, a Mistubishi Montero, into the center divider, trapping the driver. The impact also trapped the four occupants of the other car, a Honda Accord.

Ocampo was pronounced dead at the scene by county firefighters. Marcos, driving the Accord, was transported to Cottage Hospital, where he died. All four occupants of the Accord were wearing seat belts, Dawson said.

The driver of the wrong-way car, Richard L. Rodriguez, 20, has been booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on felony charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs causing injury and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. He sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was booked into jail after being medically cleared, the CHP said.

Rodriguez may have a DUI record. A 20-year-old named Richard Lawrence Rodriguez was arrested by the CHP on Oct. 30, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The man was booked about 3:20 a.m. and released around noon. He was charged with a misdemeanor of driving under the influence, cited and released with no bail amount, according to booking information.

Neither the Orange County nor Santa Barbara County district attorney’s offices confirmed whether the arrested parties are the same individual.

Sunday’s crash was the second fatal wrong-way driving collision on Highway 101 in the past month and a half. On Sept. 23, a man driving a white Verizon truck hit five vehicles as he headed south in the northbound lanes and crashed near El Sueno Road.

Jose Raul Reyes Vega, 49, of Goleta, died and several people were injured. That crash is still under investigation.

CHP public information officer Larry Hockman said Monday that he considered it “freak” that two wrong-way fatal accidents occurred so close together. They are the only two such incidents he has heard of in the area since coming to Santa Barbara a year ago.

The previous case is still under review, but the CHP expects charges to be included in the report to the District Attorney’s Office, he said. In both cases, the drivers of the wrong-way vehicles were not seriously hurt.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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