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Bill Macfadyen: Body at a Bus Stop Gets Our Attention

Deadly VAFB crash, UCSB health insurance, Nick Johnson’s cause of death, and a missing boater at Lake Cachuma round out NoozWeek’s Top 5

There were 71,744 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What were your top stories?

1. Body Found on Santa Barbara Bus Bench

A dead man was found sitting on an Outer State Street bus bench on the morning of July 15, but Santa Barbara police believe he died of natural causes.

Sgt. Riley Harwood said the body was reported at 9 a.m. on a bench in the 3900 block of State Street near La Cumbre Road. 

“There don’t appear to be any signs of trauma and it’s looking at this point like he died of natural causes,” he said.

The Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office identified the man as Paul Elyanow, 46. Police say he was a transient.

2. 1 Dead, 2 Hurt in Crash on Highway 1 at Vandenberg Air Force Base

A car crash on Highway 1 near Vandenberg Air Force Base left one man dead and two others injured July 13.

California Highway Patrol Officer John Ortega said a 2006 Subaru was speeding southbound about 4 p.m. when it drifted off the road and rolled down an embankment about a mile north of Santa Lucia Canyon Road.

A passenger, identified as Nicholas S. DiBona, 21, of Fuquay-Varina, N.C., was fatally injured in the crash, Ortega said.

He said the driver, Donald W.S. Cox, 21, and another passenger, John C. Rivera, 22, both of Lompoc, suffered moderate injuries and were taken to Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, Ortega said, adding that alcohol and drugs do not appear to be factors.

3. UCSB Parent Presses School on New Requirement to Buy Campus Health Insurance

New this year at UC Santa Barbara is a requirement that all students have a local in-network doctor and hospital or purchase a Gaucho Health Insurance plan.

But the mother of one incoming freshman is challenging the edict, and questioning why mileage may vary when it comes to “local.”

Josie Macias of San Jose told our Lara Cooper that her daughter is already covered by the family’s Kaiser Permanente health plan, Aflac supplemental accident insurance and a flexible savings account for additional medical expenses.

But that doesn’t matter because, for the 2014-2015 school year, UCSB students must have an in-network doctor and hospital providing full nonemergency medical and behavioral health care within 30 miles of the campus health center. The closest Kaiser Permanente facility is in Ventura, 40 miles away.

Macias says buying an additional insurance policy will cost $2,500 each year — at least $10,000 in extra expenses over her daughter’s college years.

According to Dr. Mary Ferris, director of UCSB Student Health, the distance requirements were established by individual campuses based on medical resources available locally.

“At UCSB, we have found it to be vitally important that students’ health insurance be available for nonemergency local care, and not restricted to a distant county or another state,” she said in an email to Cooper.

While the local radius is 30 miles at UCSB, UC Berekley, UC Santa Cruz and UC Hastings College of the Law, the territory jumps to 175 miles at UC Davis.

“It’s not consistent across the board,” Macias said. “Why is it set to 30 when it’s only 40 miles away for Kaiser?”

4. Coroner: Cause of UCSB Water Polo Player Nick Johnson’s Death Most Likely Shallow Water Blackout

After a months-long investigation of the death of UC Santa Barbara water polo player Nick Johnson, the county coroner has released a report indicating the 19-year-old elite athlete died of shallow water blackout, a condition that can cause swimmers to go unconscious underwater.

Nick Johnson, 19, was a sophomore at UCSB and a utility player on the Gauchos’ water polo team. (UCSB Athletic Department photo)
Nick Johnson, 19, was a sophomore at UCSB and a utility player on the Gauchos’ water polo team. (UCSB Athletic Department photo)

Johnson, a sophomore at UCSB and a utility player on the men’s water polo team, was found unresponsive at the bottom of the Santa Barbara High School swimming pool on March 24. Efforts to revive him — poolside and later at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital — were unsuccessful.

As our Lara Cooper reported July 11, Dr. Robert Anthony, a forensic pathologist with the county, stated the cause of death to be accidental drowning, and listed shallow water blackout as a reason the otherwise fit young swimmer could have gone unconscious.

“Based on several witness accounts, (Johnson) was seen swimming at high intensity and taking a breath once at the end of a lap,” the report stated. “He did this several times.”

Other swimmers and coaches spotted Johnson at the bottom of the pool, brought him up to the pool deck and began CPR, the report states.

Noozhawk has reported on shallow water blackout and the work some are doing to raise awareness for swimmers and divers.

Johnson’s family has established scholarship funds at both Santa Barbara High and UCSB. Click here to make an online donation to the Santa Barbara High aquatics program, or click here to make an online donation to the UCSB Foundation-Nick Johnson Memorial Fund.

The search for a missing boater has continued without success at Lake Cachuma. (Frank Cowan / Noozhawk photo)
The search for a missing boater has continued without success at Lake Cachuma. (Frank Cowan / Noozhawk photo)

5. Crews Searching for Possible Drowning Victim at Lake Cachuma

The body of a 22-year-old Oxnard man has yet to be found, a week after he is presumed to have drowned in Lake Cachuma.

Authorities say a man identified as Isaiah Sanchez may have been trying to swim for help after his boat had engine trouble the evening of July 11.

Someone on shore called authorities that night to report a boat about 50 yards offshore with a man waving his arms in distress and two more people in the water. The man in the boat and another in the water were rescued by Santa Barbara County park rangers, but there was no sign of the third man.

Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said dive teams have been hampered by zero visibility in the 80-foot water.

                                                                        •        •

Are you in the Sandwich Generation? You’ll get this. Thank you, Natalie Tran. Language warning.

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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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