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Bill Macfadyen: Saturday Afternoon Head-On Crash Has a Deadly Impact on Highway 154

NoozWeek’s Top 5 includes two more collisions on Highway 101, a Russian billionaire’s mega-yacht sighting and a blind man’s lawsuit over Stearns Wharf

There were 86,418 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What were your top stories?

1. Two Killed, 2 Injured in Head-On Crash on Highway 154 in Los Olivos

A fiery head-on collision involving three vehicles left two Santa Maria women dead on Highway 154 in Los Olivos on Sept. 6. Two other people were seriously injured in the crash just west of Foxen Canyon Road, but a third escaped harm.

The California Highway Patrol said a Toyota sedan driven by Olivia R. Sandiego, 58, was traveling east on the highway when for unknown reasons it crossed into the westbound lane and slammed into a Ford F-150 pickup truck about 1:30 p.m.

The sedan caught fire after the crash, and at least one of the victims was trapped in the wreckage, said Paul Christensen, a Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman.

Sandiego and her passenger, Carmelita Conner, 64, were declared dead at the scene, the CHP said.

The pickup driver, John Gil, 46, of Reseda, and his wife, Heidi, 45, suffered major injuries, and were transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

A third motorist, driving a Ford Fusion behind the pickup, struck a tree after running off the roadway to avoid the wreckage. The CHP said the driver, E. Gutierrez, 44, of Nipomo, was uninjured.

Crash reconstruction isn’t that easy to do in the dark. (KEYT News photo)
Crash reconstruction isn’t that easy to do in the dark. (KEYT News photo)

2. Fatal Wreck Ties Up Northbound Highway 101 Traffic in Carpinteria

An overnight collision on northbound Highway 101 in Carpinteria on Sept. 8 killed one man and tied up freeway traffic for 10 hours.

The crash near Bates Road was the second fatal wreck in less than two weeks in the area, part of the interminable freeway widening project that appears to be finished but apparently is not.

According to the California Highway Patrol, a Granite Construction Co. work truck was placing traffic cones for a lane closure around 1:45 a.m. when it was struck from behind by a Ford Ranger pickup truck.

The pickup driver — identified as Julio Pegueros, 34, of Santa Barbara — was declared dead at the scene, CHP Officer Joel Asmussen said. 

Jose Becerra, 40, of Ventura, who was a passenger in the Granite truck and possibly the worker dropping the cones, suffered minor injuries when he was ejected, Asmussen said. The driver of the Granite truck, John Avalos, 45, of Santa Maria, was uninjured.

The collision remains under investigation, and Asmussen said it was not known whether alcohol or drugs were a factor.

The wreck and subsequent CHP investigation reduced traffic to one lane through the area, backing up the morning commute “all the way to the state beaches in Ventura County,” Asmussen said. All lanes were reopened just before noon.

On Aug. 27, a wrong-way driver — identified as Daniel James Perez, 16, of Santa Barbara — was killed when he ran into a northbound tractor-trailer near Bates Road. The big rig driver was uninjured. That crash also remains under investigation.

A Russian mega-yacht off Santa Barbara? No worries here. (Mike Eliason / Noozhawk photo)
A Russian submarine mega-yacht off Santa Barbara? No worries here. (Mike Eliason / Noozhawk photo)

3. Russian Billionaire Anchors Mega-Yacht Off Santa Barbara Harbor

Looking more like a surfaced submarine, a massive yacht belonging to a Russian billionaire dropped anchor a half-mile off the Santa Barbara Harbor on Sept. 9.

Known only as the cryptic A, the sleek 394-foot yacht is owned by Andrey Melnichenko, a 42-year-old industrialist and banking mogul. Designed by French architect Philippe Starck, the vessel reportedly cost $300 million.

The boat features the requisite helipad and three swimming pools, including one with a glass bottom. One of its most interesting features is the smooth hull design that is said to leave almost no wake at 25 knots (around 29 mph for landlubbers).

Melnichenko apparently isn’t shy about showing off his wealth. Click here for a video peek inside the yacht.

Yeah, go around. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
Yeah, go around. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

4. Two Injured in Highway 101 Crash Near Glen Annie Road in Goleta

An early morning collision on southbound Highway 101 in Goleta left two people injured, one seriously, and tied up commuter traffic Sept. 5.

According to Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Sadecki, the two-vehicle crash happened about 6:25 a.m. just north of Glen Annie Road.

He said one person was seriously injured and had to be extricated from what was left of a sedan. The other motorist suffered minor injuries.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the wreck, which shut down the freeway for a couple of hours and forced southbound traffic to be diverted at Winchester Canyon.

Living on the edge at the end of Stearns Wharf — for now. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
Living on the edge at the end of Stearns Wharf — for now. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

5. Blind Man Sues Santa Barbara After Falling Off Stearns Wharf

A blind man who fell off Stearns Wharf last year is suing the City of Santa Barbara, maintaining that the pier should have railings around the entire structure.

Jun Yang, who is visually impaired and gets around with the help of a cane, alleges in the lawsuit that he was injured when he walked off the end of the wharf near Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. He reportedly suffered a concussion in the Nov. 21 fall and is being examined by doctors for evidence of a brain injury.

Yang is seeking unspecified damages for hospital and medical expenses as well as general damages.

The suit also alleges that the city has allowed dangerous conditions on public property. Although there are railings around much of the 2,300-foot wharf, where Yang fell there are neither railings nor signs warning visitors to stay away from the edge.

In a recent ruling, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Tom Anderle agreed with the city’s contention that it isn’t negligent, but ordered a response to the “dangerous conditions” charge.

Assistant City Attorney Tom Shapiro maintains the city has immunity because the area where Yang fell “was part of an approved and reasonable design.”

Baird Brown, the Los Angeles attorney representing Yang, declined comment.

                                                                 •        •        •

I’m traveling, with lousy Internet service, so instead of a video this week, how about the greatest test answer of all time? HT to Jack Hawley.

(Jack Hawley photo)

                                                                  •        •        •

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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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