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Bill Macfadyen: Latest Highway 154 Smashup Injures 8 in Head-On Collision

NoozWeek’s Top 5 identifies a dead bartender, watches a 75-mile chase end in fire and futility, runs into a palm tree, and discovers a teacher lawsuit

Point of impact.
Point of impact. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)


My partners, Kim Clark and Tom Bolton, and I — on behalf of our entire team — wish everyone in Noozhawk Nation a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for helping us achieve another successful and record-setting year.

There were 98,830​ people who read Noozhawk this past week. Here’s my take on your top stories:

1. 8 Hurt in Head-On Collision on Highway 154 North of Santa Barbara

A head-on crash on Highway 154 the afternoon of Dec. 19 left eight people injured and wreckage strewn all over the roadway.

Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said the collision between a pickup truck and an SUV occurred around 4 p.m. about 1½ miles north of San Antonio Creek Road.

He said two people suffered moderate injuries and six others had minor injuries.

All eight were transported by a convoy of American Medical Response ambulances to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the crash.

2. Police Release Name of Man Found Dead in Santa Barbara Parking Lot

Authorities released Nate Curteman’s name, but no details of his death. (Facebook photo)
Authorities released Nate Curteman’s name, but no details of his death. (Facebook photo)

The Santa Barbara man who was found dead in a downtown parking lot earlier this month has been identified as 27-year-old Nathaniel Preston “Nate” Curteman.

A maintenance worker discovered the body about 12:20 a.m. Dec. 15 in city Lot 11 in the 500 block of Anacapa Street.

Police Sgt. Riley Harwood said Curteman had been struck by a vehicle under “unusual circumstances.” More information about the case is expected to be released soon, he added.

According to Curteman’s Facebook page, he worked as a bartender and server at nearby American Ale, 14 E. Cota St., and at Union Ale, 214 State St.

Family and friends held a celebration of his life Dec. 23 at Union Ale, and then joined in a paddle-out at Leadbetter Beach.

This is one pursuit that sure went up in flames. (Diego Topete photo)
This is one pursuit that sure went up in flames. (Diego Topete photo)

3. Suspects Elude Capture After High-Speed Chase in Santa Barbara, Ventura Counties

A wild, high-speed chase stretched some 75 miles across two counties on Dec. 23, and involved a reckless race along much of State Street, including through the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, two collisions and a fiery end.

The incident began with a failed traffic stop on Highway 101 in Buellton and ended by Solimar Beach just west of Ventura. The getaway vehicle was trailed by an entourage of patrol cars from multiple law-enforcement agencies and tracked from the air by a Santa Barbara County helicopter.

After all that, the two suspects just vanished into thin air.

According to California Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Gutierrez, the white 1999 Toyota 4Runner refused to yield to a CHP unit attempting a traffic stop in Buellton.

Traveling at times in excess of 110 mph, the SUV sped south on Highway 101 into Goleta, got off the freeway at La Cumbre Road in the Outer State Street area, then careered down State through downtown.

Two collisions — one at the intersection of East Cabrillo Boulevard and Niños Drive, across from East Beach, and another on Coast Village Road near the Montecito Inn — hardly slowed down the driver.

The vehicle finally came to a stop near the State Beaches exit on the outskirts of Ventura, and it burst into flames. Witnesses reported seeing sparks kicking up from the rims after the SUV lost a couple of tires during the chaos.

Authorities pursued the two suspects on foot, but they’ve eluded capture so far.​

“CHP, Santa Barbara (County) sheriff’s deputies, Ventura police and State Parks officers are looking for two suspects,” Gutierrez said.

“One suspect is described as a Hispanic female and the other is described as a white male wearing a black shirt with a red logo, and blue jeans.”

Palm trees in picture may be sturdier than they appear. (Robert Mercado / Santa Barbara Fire Department photo)
Palm trees in picture may be sturdier than they appear. (Robert Mercado / Santa Barbara Fire Department photo)

4. Woman Injured When Vehicle Hits Palm Tree on Las Positas Road in Santa Barbara

A driver who ran into a palm tree on Las Positas Road early on Dec. 20 had to be extricated from the wrecked vehicle by Santa Barbara firefighters.

Battalion Chief Robert Mercado said the crash occurred about 7:45 a.m. as the woman was driving her Jeep south on Las Positas toward Cliff Drive.

He said the woman complained of neck and back pain so firefighters fitted her with a neck brace and placed her on a backboard to carry her up the embankment. She was taken by an American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with what were described as minor to moderate injuries.

The woman’s identity was not released, but she was believed to be in her 20s.

As usual, a few Noozhawk commenters have concluded the crash was the result of DWT, aka “driving while texting,” but police will be investigating the cause anyway.

5. Former Special Ed Teacher Sues Santa Barbara School District

A former special education teacher has filed a federal lawsuit against the Santa Barbara Unified School District, alleging her contract wasn’t renewed because she pointed out district failings while advocating on behalf of her students.

As our Gina Potthoff first reported, San Francisco-based Leigh Law Group filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of the instructor, Emily Murray.

Murray alleges she had received satisfactory performance reviews until she began speaking up about classroom conditions she had observed with her students. Her job was terminated in June.

According to the lawsuit, Murray reported to district officials that federal funds were being misspent by regularly allowing an instructional aide to leave early to coach athletic games, despite having been assigned to work one-on-one with a student with autism.

“As a result, the student ... was left without a 1:1 aide in violation of the child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) and federal rights under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act,” the complaint states.

“The student was consequently removed, each time the aide was absent, from the general education class because no aide was available — again in violation of the inclusion mandates of the IDEA.”

Murray claims her immediate supervisor instructed her to tell the general education teacher to mark the student as present even though he wasn’t, something she says occurred many times in the spring of 2014.

School district officials did not respond to Noozhawk’s requests for comment.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

As it was in last week’s column, this was our top story this time last year: Gusty Winds, Torrential Rains Slam Santa Barbara County.

Meanwhile, the link in last week’s column pulled in several hundred new readers this week. Confused yet? I sure am. Read on — again. 

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Not happy with what you got for Christmas and already thinking about revenge? Bookmark this link: The Amazing Crap-O-Matic Gift Generator.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Percy, left, and Baxter show off their synchronized grooming talents. You’re welcome.

HT to my friend, Susie Gardner.

(Susie Gardner / Noozhawk 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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