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Bill Macfadyen: Random Wreck in Goleta Engineers a Helluva Ride Through Top 5

NoozWeek’s Top 5 is loaded with car crashes, along with a return search for a missing 5 year old and a bad sign of the times for Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County firefighters tend to the injured in a two-vehicle crash ... Hold on a sec. Is that a pagoda in the background? Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County firefighters tend to the injured in a two-vehicle crash ... Hold on a sec. Is that a pagoda in the background? (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

Today is my anniversary.

For the last 33 years, I’ve had the privilege of being married to my beautiful wife, Missy. From time to time, or even most of the time, she may wonder what she did to deserve the life sentence, but I thank God for it.

Every. Day.

When you see her, it’s OK to give her your condolences.

Although today is a happy one for me, it’s bittersweet for us at Noozhawk. Our Sam Goldman is flying on after more than a year of tireless, first-rate reporting on a broad range of complex topics.

Armed with the experience of working in a very fast-paced new media environment, he’s off to pursue his master’s degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He’ll be bringing to Cal a unique, practical perspective that is of vital importance in this tumultuous and transformative era of journalism.

I’m proud and appreciative of the work Sam did for Noozhawk, and I’m excited to follow him along on his next adventure.

We’re also excited to welcome back to the Noozhawk nest our old friend and former colleague, Josh Molina. He’s one of the most experienced and talented professional journalists on the South Coast, and we’re blessed to have him returning to our team. Josh starts June 19, and can be reached at [email protected].

Amid all these milestones, there were 102,938 people who read Noozhawk this past week, according to our Google Analytics. This column is my own take on what you determined were your Top Five stories.

1. Both Drivers Seriously Injured in 2-Vehicle Collision in Goleta

A two-vehicle crash in Goleta on June 11 sent one of the cars rolling onto its roof and put both drivers in the hospital. The incident also hit the gas with Noozhawk’s traffic — the first car wreck to lead off this column in nearly two months.

Mike Eliason, a Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman, said the collision happened just after noon at the intersection of North Patterson Avenue and University Drive. The two cars ended up on the southwest corner.

Each of the drivers was alone, and Eliason said firefighters had to assist them from the wreckage.

The motorists were taken by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, but their identities and medical conditions were not disclosed.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.

2. Retired Sheriff’s Lieutenant Killed in Crash on Closed, Storm-Damaged Roadway Near Orcutt

The picture pretty much tells the story. Click to view larger
The picture pretty much tells the story. (Michael Colaianni / KEYT News photo)

A retired Santa Barbara County sheriff’s lieutenant died the night of June 10 after he drove around barricades on closed Orcutt-Garey Road east of Orcutt and crashed into a gaping sinkhole.

The washout appeared during last winter’s storms, and the road has been closed ever since. Despite the barriers, I suspect the two-mile stretch of roadway is still considered a locals shortcut — albeit a perilous one — between Dominion and Foxen Canyon roads.

Retired Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Lt. Sonny LeGault, 1954-2017. Click to view larger
Retired Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Lt. Sonny LeGault, 1954-2017. (LeGault family photo)

The California Highway Patrol confirmed to our Tom Bolton that the driver was Ronald “Sonny” LeGault, 62, of Santa Maria, who retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2011.

According to the CHP, LeGault was westbound in his 2003 Ford F-150 pickup truck when, for unknown reasons, he drove “off of the roadway, around barriers and directly into a sinkhole” just east of Dominion Road.

“Both Mr. LeGault and his vehicle came to rest inside of the sinkhole,” the CHP said. “Mr. LeGault sustained fatal injuries.”

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said LeGault had been with the department for 33 years, in assignments that included North County and South Coast patrol, criminal investigations and human resources.

“Even after he retired, he continued to serve as a reserve deputy until June of 2016,” she said.

The CHP is handling the crash investigation, and Hoover said the sheriff’s Coroner’s Office is investigating the death.

A funeral mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. June 19 at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church, 1190 E. Clark Ave. in Santa Maria. A reception will follow immediately at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge, 1309 N. Bradley Road. Arrangements are being handled by Dudley-Hoffman Mortuary in Santa Maria.

3. Search for Missing 5-Year-Old Southern California Boy Continues in Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Ynez Valley Union High School as you’ve never seen it before — and we hope you’ll never see it again. Click to view larger
Santa Ynez Valley Union High School as you’ve never seen it before — and we hope you’ll never see it again. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The campus of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School became a staging area for a massive law-enforcement operation June 10 as authorities continued their search for a 5-year-old South Pasadena boy who has been missing for nearly seven weeks.

Aramazd Andressian Jr. was last seen April 20 with his father, 35-year-old Aramazd Andressian. His mother, Ana Estevez, reported him missing the morning of April 22 after Andressian failed to return him from a trip to Disneyland. The couple is in the process of divorcing.

5-year-old Aramazd Andressian has been missing since April 20. Click to view larger
5-year-old Aramazd Andressian has been missing since April 20. (Andressian family photo)

To add to the mystery, authorities say they found Andressian in a South Pasadena park later on the morning of April 22, alone and unconscious in a car that had been doused in gasoline.

He was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment and child abduction, and Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives say they were less than impressed with his “conflicting and misleading” statements.

During questioning, detectives determined Andressian had visited Lake Cachuma the day before. As Noozhawk previously reported, Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators took a field trip to the lake on April 25, combing it for clues and any signs of Aramazd.

The search — which included a dive team — apparently turned up nothing useful, however.

Investigators were back in the Santa Ynez Valley last weekend, conducting roadside searches in a roughly 20-mile area between Cachuma and Nojoqui Falls.

“There really hasn’t been anything too significant, except now that we’ve combed through a lot of evidence, we believe that Andressian Sr. actually came through some of these roads here,” Lt. Joe Mendoza of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau told our Sam Goldman.

“We want to make sure he didn’t discard anything off of the roadways.”

The hunt included about 150 search-and-rescue personnel from throughout Southern California, along with a helicopter, a drone, scent dogs, ATVs and Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies on horseback.

Officials say Andressian remains a person of interest in the case, but he was released from custody April 25 because of insufficient evidence.

4. Changing Brokerage Signage One of Many Decision Points in Response to State Street Vacancies

O.M.G. Santa Barbara’s sign pollution is out of control! Click to view larger
O.M.G. Santa Barbara’s sign pollution is out of control! (Sam Goldman photo)

Even if you never set foot on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, you probably know things aren’t like they used to be.

On block after block, there are vacant storefronts along the iconic commercial corridor, several stretches of which are alarmingly obvious after dark. Macy’s, the vacated southeast anchor of Paseo Nuevo, is the most notable.

There is a long list of reasons for the decline, but the City of Santa Barbara apparently identified one that it thought valid enough to send up the flagpole: the size of the for-lease signs displayed in windows that once contained actual, you know, window displays.

In an email to a number of commercial real estate brokers and downtown property owners and landlords, the city suggested a solution would be to shrink, move or eliminate altogether the real estate signage as a way to improve the visual blight.

That’s right. The problem apparently is the signage advertising the square footage available, the leasing company and the contact information. Talk about not seeing the forest for the signs — although in Santa Barbara, it’s no less a miracle that signs of any kind are allowed at all.

Noozhawk received copies of the city’s email from multiple sources. In response, Nina Johnson, senior assistant to the city administrator, told our Sam Goldman that the suggestion was just one of many it has heard from the public.

I’m not at all surprised at the hostility to business, commerce and trade exhibited by a handful of locals walking among us; more than a few of them comment on Noozhawk stories with regularity.

What’s disappointing is that city professionals would lend credence to such crackpot theories. I expect them to have a greater understanding of how a local economy works. On the other hand, this is California so who am I kidding?

“Signage is a solution to filling the spaces, it’s not a reason for spaces being vacant,” said Michael Martz, a partner of Hayes Commercial Group.

Good luck with that.

5. Driver Arrested on Suspicion of Underage DUI, Hit and Run in Highway 154 Rollover

Apparently, this is a minor crash. Literally. Click to view larger
Apparently, this is a minor crash. Literally. (Suzanne Farwell file photo)

It turns out there was more to the No. 3 story in my Best of Bill column last week — a lot more.

As you’ll recall, a southbound Nissan Sentra rolled over on Highway 154 the afternoon of June 3, near Painted Cave Road.

Although the roof was smashed in when the car came to rest against boulders, the three occupants were able to free themselves from the wreckage.

First responders say one of the trio — who appeared to be cognitively “altered in some fashion” — ran from the scene. He later was retrieved from the edge of a cliff about 200 feet below the roadway.

Following up, our Sam Goldman reported that the California Highway Patrol had arrested the driver on suspicion of underage driving under the influence and hit and run with injuries — both felonies.

CHP Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said the driver, whose name was not released because he’s a minor, was “under the influence of a drug” when he drifted off the roadway and onto an embankment about 2½ miles north of Goleta.

He said the sedan came back onto the highway and “tapped” another car before hitting a second embankment and flipping onto its roof.

The underage driver and his two companions — also minors — suffered cuts, scratches and abrasions, Gutierrez said. The driver of the other car was unhurt.

Because of their ages, the trio’s identities were withheld.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Suspected DUI Driver Arrested After Hitting Parked Vehicles in Santa Barbara.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Oh-kay: How “OK” Took Over the World.

                                                                  •        •        •

Watch It

Noozhawk needs a Hawk Cam.

(Radi0ActivSquid video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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