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Bill Macfadyen: Readers Chase Details of High-Speed Motorcycle Wreck on San Marcos Pass

NoozWeek’s Top 5 includes a camper scamper, another fatal train collision, a 9 year old’s horrific murder, Lordside Gangsta, and a farewell to our Michelle Nelson

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson is leaving the nest. July 17 is her last day.

It’s truly a bittersweet moment for me. Michelle has accepted a terrific marketing job offer, and I’m excited for her and this next adventure in her life.

But she’s been with Noozhawk for a very long time — longer than anyone but me — and our friendship predates Noozhawk by years and years. It’s just not that easy to say goodbye to someone who, every day, gave everything she had to make our organization the best it could be.

Internally, she’s the finest copy editor I’ve ever had on my team, and she deftly and unflappably handled an enormous volume of content for us.

Copy editor humor. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk file photo via Instagram)
Copy editor humor. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk file photo via Instagram)

But externally, her helpfulness to our readers and contributors, and to those just trying to submit an obituary for a loved one or a news release for the first time, well, that’s how legends are made. It’s what we may miss the most.

What many people didn’t know, however, is that Michelle actually lives in Eugene, Ore., and has only been to Santa Barbara once in her life.

How she became a Noozhawk is a long story, involving my best friend, Paul Yarbrough; UCLA football; the Eugene Register-Guard copy desk; a move to Atlanta; and a running joke that became a pretty good last laugh for the two of us. When I one day write the book on Noozhawk, this will be an entire chapter.

Meanwhile, we’re excited to announce the promotion of Giana Magnoli as our new managing editor. We know Giana will live up to the exacting standards Michelle set, and we can’t wait to see how she’ll make the job her own.

With Michelle’s departure, I want to take the opportunity to remind anyone reading this that all submissions should be emailed to [email protected]. All of us check that address, and things are less likely to be overlooked if sent there. Click here for more information about submitting news and information.

So long, Michelle, and thank you for everything. Go Ducks! Except when they play the Bruins.

                                                                  •        •        •

There were 103,785 people who read Noozhawk this past week. Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Bob Levinson and Jason Rezaian weren’t among them.

Here’s my take on your top stories:

This is never good. (Dave Bemis photo)
This is never good. (Dave Bemis photo)

1. Motorcyclist Fatally Injured in Collision with Vehicle on Highway 154

A motorcyclist reportedly racing up Highway 154 at a high rate of speed was fatally injured the afternoon of July 10 when he ran into an SUV just below San Marcos Pass.

The bike pretty much disintegrated on impact. The driver — later identified as Ryan Bollay, 20, of Santa Ynez — was declared dead after being rushed to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in very critical condition.

Authorities say the collision occurred about 3:20 p.m. when the westbound Bollay slammed into a Nissan Pathfinder that was turning east onto Highway 154 from East Camino Cielo.

The SUV driver — Amybael Vega, 63, of Panorama City — suffered minor injuries and also was taken to Cottage Hospital by an American Medical Response ambulance.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. Authorities say it is not known whether alcohol or drugs were a factor.

Family and friends have scheduled a celebration of Bollay’s life on July 25 at Montecito Covenant Church.

The end of the road. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)
The end of the road. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

2. RV Driver’s Wild Ride Leaves Trail of Wreckage in Santa Barbara

A rogue RV driver went all demolition derby July 13, allegedly striking nearly a dozen vehicles as his motorhome lumbered through several Santa Barbara neighborhoods.

Anthony John Griffin: Not such a happy camper now. (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)
Anthony John Griffin: Not such a happy camper now. (Santa Barbara County Jail photo)

Incredibly, no one was seriously injured in the carnage, which included a school bus loaded with dozens of children heading off to summer camp.

According to Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood, just before 2 p.m. officers were dispatched to the 2500 block of upper Anacapa Street for a domestic-violence call. They arrived to find a 55-year-old woman arguing with a man inside an old RV, which was parked on the street.

He said the officers safely extricated the woman, but the man — later identified as Anthony John Griffin, 28, of Santa Barbara — refused to come out and instead drove away. He eventually drove back.

Police tried to get Griffin to leave the RV a second time, Harwood said, but he resisted their efforts and sped off, striking at least two patrol cars as he fled.

The chase was on. Sort of.

Given the residential surroundings, police weren’t speeding after the suspect but merely trying to keep an eye on him. It’s kind of hard to lose an RV, after all.

Apparently it’s hard to drive one, too, because Griffin allegedly was involved in at least eight separate collisions during his meanders around the Upper Eastside.

One of those collisions was with a school bus that had just picked up about 30 children headed to camp in the Santa Ynez Valley. For good measure, Griffin reportedly ran into the bus twice.

Nancy Gonzalez had dropped off her sons — Israel, 14, and Michael, 9 — at the Santa Barbara Mission for the camp trip, and was following their bus down Los Olivos Street.

As the bus was slowing for a stop sign, she told our Tom Bolton, “I heard the crash, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s an accident.’”

She said the RV sideswiped the bus, shearing off its driver’s-side mirror, and “then he backed up and hit it again.”

None of the children was injured, and the kids were transferred to another bus to complete their journey to Circle V Ranch Camp & Retreat Center, run by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul near Lake Cachuma. Talk about a doozy of a summer camp story.

Meanwhile, Griffin had managed to get himself all the way to westbound Foothill Road in San Roque before his RV broke down near Northridge Road. The string of police cars behind him closed in, and he was arrested without further incident.

Harwood said officers found Griffin to be under the influence of alcohol and he had numerous self-inflicted cuts on his body.

Griffin was arrested on charges of felony domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon, felony evading related to the pursuit, and felony hit and run, Harwood said.

He was booked into County Jail, with bail set at $500,000.

Gruesome duty in Old Town Goleta. (Zach Warburg / Noozhawk photo)
Gruesome duty in Old Town Goleta. (Zach Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

3. Amtrak Train Strikes and Kills 21-Year-Old Woman in Old Town Goleta

A 21-year-old Goleta woman was struck and killed by an Amtrak passenger train as she walked on the railroad tracks in Old Town on the evening of July 14.

According to Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Lt. Craig Bonner, Maria Velasquez-Cruz​ was walking west on the Union Pacific tracks just after 6 p.m. when a westbound Pacific Surfliner ran up on her from behind.

“The engineer driving the train attempted to warn Ms. Velasquez-Cruz by repeatedly sounding the train’s horn and activated the train’s emergency brakes,” Bonner said. “Ms. Velasquez-Cruz did not move out of the way and was hit by the train.”

Velasquez-Cruz was pronounced dead at the scene, near the north end of Magnolia Avenue.

Although the woman reportedly was wearing earphones at the time of the collision, Bonner said investigators had not been able to verify that.

The incident is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Transportation Department.​

4. Mother, 2 Others Charged in Former Goleta Boy’s Death

When we hear that someone died a violent death, a standard response is often, “I hope he/she didn’t suffer.”

Jack Kirby Garcia suffered. He suffered for a long time before his violent death.

He was 9 years old.

Having been around news for quite a while, not too much shocks me anymore. This story did. It was hard to get through and, like many of you, I was filled with revulsion just a few sentences in.

I won’t repeat the gory details, but Jack’s mother, 26-year-old Oriana Iris Garcia, and two fellow lowlifes — his uncle, Jacob Andrew Barajas, 23, and Garcia’s boyfriend, Robert Leroy Wilson, 30 — have been charged in his July 5 death in Hagerstown, Md.

The South Coast connection is that Jack — and what passed for his family — lived in Goleta until earlier this year, when the lot of them moved to Maryland. Jack attended Brandon School for two years and then Ellwood School.

I’m sure there are a lot of people in this community searching their memory banks this week, trying to determine if they missed a sign of the abuse that you know didn’t just start after Jack left Goleta.

If only one of us had called county Child Welfare Services (800.367.0166) on Jack’s behalf. Or even CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) at 805.965.2376. Or 9-1-1. Someone.

I pray that God held Jack tightly as he died. I hope that his executioners are punished as harshly as they can be under the law. It won’t be enough.

HT to the Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., for sharing the story with us.

(ChicanoRappMusic video)

5. Bobby ‘Lordside Gangsta’ Lopez of Santa Barbara, 1967-2015

Christian rap artist Bobby “Lordside Gangsta” Lopez died of an undisclosed cause July 5 in Santa Barbara. He was just 48.

Bobby ‘Lordside Gangsta’ Lopez: A new breed of G.
Bobby “Lordside Gangsta” Lopez: A new breed of G.

According to his obituary, the native Santa Barbaran was born on March 22, 1967, grew up on the Mesa, was a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan and excelled at karate.

But it was his love and devotion for Jesus Christ and music that led him to become a Christian rapper. The combination provided a unique platform for the self-described “Banger for Cristo,” who was a fearless witness among gang members and other homies.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, but Lopez’s talent was no mystery to his many fans who considered him blessed. After watching a number of his videos, count me among them.

Family and friends packed Holy Cross Catholic Church on the Mesa for Lopez’s Rosary service and funeral Mass, sorrowful about the circumstances but confident they’ll see his radiant smile again and hear his mellifluous voice rapping in heaven.

Preceded in death by his mother, Terry, Lopez is survived by his father, Roberto, and stepmother Barbara; siblings Lisa, Roberta (Steven), Mahra (Andrew Sr.), Kenny and Lori (Giovanni); and a slew of nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and assorted relatives. Almost all of them live in Santa Barbara.

A GoFundMe site was established to help the family with funeral expenses. Click here to make an online donation.

R.I.P., Lordside G.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web: Photobombed by 18th-Century Ghost During Visit to the Edinburgh Vaults?

I’m not seeing it, but everyone knows I’m not (para)normal.​

                                                                 •        •        •

Because ... Ron Swanson.

(You’re the Cure-American Heart Association 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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