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Bill Macfadyen: Gibraltar Road Drive Takes a Very Deadly Turn

Burger Bus gets a raw deal in NoozWeek’s Top 5, a missing 5-year-old's dad is charged with his murder, tacos go exotic, and Summer Solstice parades through

A June 26 rescue-and-recovery operation at a fatal crash scene in the 2900 block of Gibraltar Road was a grueling — and gruesome — undertaking in the Santa Barbara foothills. Click to view larger
A June 26 rescue-and-recovery operation at a fatal crash scene in the 2900 block of Gibraltar Road was a grueling — and gruesome — undertaking in the Santa Barbara foothills. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

The Los Angeles Dodgers may have split a series with the Anaheim Angels after a string of sweeps, but the torrid power surge shows no sign of cooling. A franchise record 50 home runs in a month? Keep those bombs on the way.

Noozhawk had 115,520 readers in our ballpark this past week, according to our Google Analytics. This column is my own particular swing for the fences with the Top Five stories during that period. Sometimes I hit it out, and sometimes I go way into foul territory.

1. Driver Arrested on Suspicion of DUI After 2 Killed, 3 Injured As Vehicle Plunges Off Gibraltar Road

A car full of young people drove off Gibraltar Road in the Santa Barbara foothills the night of June 26, rolling over and over and over as it plunged down the steep, dark hillside. The vehicle finally came to rest on its roof, 300 feet below the roadway.

Emergency personnel found a gruesome scene after rappelling to the wreckage. Two young women were dead, and the driver and his other two passengers were injured. One of the victims was trapped in the mangled steel of what had been a 2005 Volkswagen Passat.

Lesli Sandoval Click to view larger
Lesli Sandoval (GoFundMe photo)
Lily Brennan Click to view larger
Lily Brennan (Facebook photo)

The driver — a Ventura man identified as 19-year-old Brandon S. Woodward — was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, authorities say.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said the wreck occurred about 9:30 p.m. in the 2900 block of Gibraltar Road, a winding, narrow roadway above the site of the old Mount Calvary Episcopal Monastery, which was destroyed in the 2008 Tea Fire. The station wagon went off the road at a spot bicyclists have come to call “crash corner.”

Declared dead at the scene were 17-year-old Lily Afton Brennan and 19-year-old Lesli Michael Sandoval Nunez, both of Ventura, Hoover said.

She said Woodward and a 16-year-old girl, also from Ventura, suffered major injuries. Both were airlifted to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The fifth victim, Dalton T. Murrieta, 19, of Ventura, suffered minor injuries, but it took rescuers hours to extricate him from the vehicle. He eventually was brought up to the roadway and transported by American Medical Response ambulance to the hospital.

Personnel from the Santa Barbara County, Montecito and Santa Barbara fire departments; the California Highway Patrol; and the sheriff’s Search and Rescue team responded to the crash.

Helicopters from the county Air Support Unit and Calstar were used to ferry paramedics, rescuers and patients up and down the hillside.

The CHP is investigating the cause of the wreck, Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said.

Brennan graduated earlier this month from St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, according to a post on the school’s Facebook page. She had lost her mother, Christy, two years before, when she died unexpectedly at age 56.

A family friend has started a GoFundMe page to help Brennan’s family with funeral expenses. Click here to make an online donation.

Sandoval, a Ventura High alumna, will be celebrated at a funeral service at 3 p.m. July 8 at Joseph P. Reardon Funeral Home, 757 E. Main St. in Ventura.

A GoFundMe page has been established to help her parents pay for her funeral. Click here to make an online donation.

By any measurement, Gibraltar Road is perilous, and the 2900 block alone has had its share of spectacular crashes, including one last year that badly injured the driver.

In 2012, the son of a friend of mine was seriously injured when he drove off the road while taking a curve too fast in the dark. His car ended up 200 feet down the hillside and the then-Dos Pueblos High School senior was stranded overnight, disoriented with a skull fracture.

His frantic parents had no idea where to look for him until his dad thought to have the wireless company ping his cell phone early the next morning. Within an hour, help was on the way.

The night of June 26, our Ryan Cullom and Zack Warburg were at the fatal crash scene, along with about three dozen first-responders whose rescue and recovery operation stretched for more than seven hours.

In talking with Zack later, it occurred to us that installing a guard rail might be a worthwhile investment along that particular section of the road. I know that street and it’s quite narrow right there, and even a steel barrier can be no match for an impaired driver.

Still, this latest incident sure came at a terrible cost — in more ways than one.

2. Santa Barbara’s Burger Bus Driving Out of Town After 8 Years in Business

There will be no more Burger Bus stops in Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
There will be no more Burger Bus stops in Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

After eight years in Santa Barbara, the owner of the Burger Bus says the city’s apathy toward business is — literally — driving him away. Rather than continue to try to push a burger uphill, Michael Gardner is moving his food truck to Colorado.

“This city has become an enclave for the rich and the wealthy,” he told our Josh Molina. “The city doesn’t support small businesses.”

Gardner ticked off a long list of arbitrary and autocratic decrees that he says have made it impossible to run a food truck business.

For instance, a draft ordinance would prohibit the trucks from remaining in a single location for more than 60 minutes. Any shuffle within 500 feet would be considered the same location.

No doubt due to their corrupting influence on youngsters, food trucks would be barred from within 500 feet of a school. Proposed rules also would restrict parking on private property.

Opting for a more welcoming business climate, albeit a harsher one for dining outside during the winter, Gardner and his family are moving to Denver.

Ken Oplinger, president and CEO of The Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region, says he empathizes with the beleaguered burger master.

“I am not sure why we can’t find a way to work it out for everyone,” he said. “I think it is unfortunate that a business is leaving because they can’t make a go here.”

In fairness, Santa Barbara is hardly alone in its often anti-business attitude. Although California likes to brag about its global economic standing, more often than not the entire state should be declared a hostile work environment.

3. Father of Missing 5-Year-Old South Pasadena Boy Arrested on Murder Charges

A South Pasadena man, whose missing 5-year-old son was the subject of two extensive searches in the Santa Ynez Valley, has been arrested by Los Angeles County authorities on a “no-body murder charge.”

R.I.P. Aramazd Andressian Jr.
R.I.P. Aramazd Andressian Jr. (Andressian family photo)

In a long-feared outcome, the remains of Aramazd Andressian Jr. were found near Lake Cachuma on June 30, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials reported July 1.

Aramazd Andressian, 35, was taken into custody in Las Vegas on June 23 and booked at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.

Bail was set at $10 million, pending extradition to California.

Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Mendoza said that at the time of his arrest, Andressian had been in Las Vegas for 47 days, “socializing” and engaging in behavior that was “not consistent with a grieving parent.”

Authorities noted that he also had colored his hair and shaved his beard, and may have been scheming to flee the country.

Andressian is suspected of killing his son, who was last seen about 1:30 a.m. April 21, leaving Disneyland with his dad. The elder Andressian showed up at Lake Cachuma about six hours later — by himself.

Aramazd’s mother, Ana Estevez, reported her son missing early on April 22 after Andressian failed to return him to her South Pasadena home for a custody exchange. The couple is in the process of divorcing.

Aramazd Andressian on June 23. Click to view larger
Aramazd Andressian on June 23. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department photo)
Aramazd Andressian on April 25. Click to view larger
Aramazd Andressian on April 25. (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department photo)

Later that morning, Andressian was found in a South Pasadena park, alone and unconscious in a vehicle that had been doused in gasoline.

There was no sign of Aramazd, however, and Andressian gave conflicting reports to authorities during questioning. He was released from custody April 25 because of insufficient evidence.

Detectives have conducted an exhaustive search for Aramazd, including twice traveling to Lake Cachuma and the Santa Ynez Valley. Investigators combed the area around the lake on April 25 and sent a dive team into the reservoir.

They returned June 10 and, assisted by Santa Barbara County agencies, expanded the search area to nearby Camp Whittier and more than 30 miles of rural roadway between Nojoqui Falls and Santa Ynez.

Although the searches apparently turned up little of use, Mendoza said Santa Barbara County remains an area of interest. As our Tom Bolton first reported July 1, detectives found Aramazd’s remains on a return trip to the lake on June 30. No further details were released.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323.890.5500.

4. BizHawk: Goa Taco Brings to State Street a Diverse Twist on an Old Favorite

You know me: I can always go (for) a taco. Click to view larger
You know me: I can always go (for) a taco. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

Goa Taco, whose South Asian- and Mediterranean-inspired tacos developed a cult following in New York, has now staked a claim to Santa Barbara and opened at 718 State St.

In addition to the nontraditional flavors, the taco shells actually are paratha, an Indian flatbread that chef/owner Duvaldi Marneweck characterizes as “the buttery, flaky love child of the tortilla and croissant.”

Consider me intrigued. And follow my Instagram feed to see if they earn a #bestofbillrecommendation when I — inevitably — check the place out.

Goa Taco took over the restaurant space formerly occupied by Gandolfo’s New York Deli, which closed late last year.

5. Summer Solstice Parade Wings Its Way Through Downtown Santa Barbara

In a bit of a departure from the colorful costumes of Santa Barbara’s annual Summer Solstice Celebration, a flock of birds goes black and forth on State Street. Click to view larger
In a bit of a departure from the colorful costumes of Santa Barbara’s annual Summer Solstice Celebration, a flock of birds goes black and forth on State Street. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

To the cheers and delight of tens of thousands of spectators, Santa Barbara’s 43rd Summer Solstice Celebration paraded up State Street on June 24.

The colorful extravaganza, which included some 30 entries under a banner of “Celebrating Unity,” started at Cota Street and slowly made its way up State to Micheltorena Street, then over to Alameda Park.

“As artists, we create a culture of community and a deep family connection,” Budhi Harlow, a local musician, composer and drum teacher, told our Brooke Holland.

“This is an activity about growing the community together.”

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Testimony Reveals Dead Newborn Suffered Multiple Stab Wounds.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

If only I had known about this for Father’s Day: The Dad Who Photoshops His Baby Daughter Into Dangerous Situations.

                                                                  •        •        •

Watch It

What is it about whales that makes watching them so mesmerizing? This pod found the meat spot in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

(Mila Zinkova 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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