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Death of Vandenberg Airman Struck by Transit Bus Ruled Accidental

The death of an airman who was fatally injured when he was struck by a transit bus while lying on Highway 1 near Vandenberg Air Force Base in February has been called accidental after an autopsy revealed he had consumed a significant amount of alcohol.

Airman 1st Class Tyler Leidholdt, 24, who was assigned to the 30th Security Forces Squadron, died after being struck by a vehicle authorities initially suspected had left the scene on Feb. 19. 

The incident occurred at approximately 5:30 a.m. in the southbound lanes of Highway 1 near Timber Lane, according to the California Highway Patrol. The scene is outside Vandenberg’s main gate.

Leidholdt had been lying in a lane when the Santa Maria Area Transit bus driven by Manuel Ortiz Jr., 60, of Santa Maria could not avoid hitting him.

The Breeze Bus was travelling at about 60 mph, according to investigators. 

The evidence collected by investigators included video showing Leidholdt lying in the lane, the CHP said.

The driver of the bus, which provides commuter services between the Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Ynez valleys, remained at the scene, and further investigation revealed no other driver fled, the CHP said.

While the CHP investigated the circumstances surrounding the incident, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office looked into the cause of death and other factors.

“The Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office conducted a death investigation and determined the cause of death to be multiple blunt force trauma and the manner of death accidental,” Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Monday.

Toxicology tests determined Leidholdt had a blood-alcohol content of 0.291, more than three times the limit to be considered legally drunk for driving.

The airman did not have a vehicle near the scene, the CHP said in February.

Leidholdt, who most recently lived in Lompoc, had been in the U.S. Air Force for 18 months, and had been assigned to Vandenberg since May 2017.

He reportedly grew up near Long Beach, California, and played for the Lakewood High School baseball team. 

At the time of Leidholdt’s death, his wife, Tasha, was weeks away from giving birth to their son, Jax, who was born in early April.

A GoFundMe page for Leidholdt’s wife and son raised more than $28,200, much more than the goal of $5,000.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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