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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 12:19 pm | A Few Clouds 58º


Bill Macfadyen: I-5 Closure Puts a Stop to Traffic in Santa Barbara County

Racism cry rings hollow in NoozWeek’s Top 5, along with car wrecks in Summerland and Goleta, and a Palm Springs plane crash

The picture of gridlock: A sign of things to come?
The picture of gridlock: A sign of things to come? (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)


There were 121,391 people who read Noozhawk this past week — without the incitement of an “awful Internet video.”

Here’s my take on your top stories:

1. I-5 Closure Snarls Highway 101 Traffic in Santa Barbara

If a couple of short, intense storms can shut down Interstate 5 and strand more than 100 vehicles on Highway 166, man, are we in for a looooong winter.

A series of heavy thunderstorms spawned landslides that closed I-5 over the Grapevine north of Los Angeles on Oct. 15. Dozens of motorists were stuck in the mud as it flowed over both directions of California’s main north-south artery.

That blockage forced authorities to reroute cars and trucks to Highway 101, Santa Barbara County’s only north-south artery. That effectively brought local traffic to a screeching halt, both on the freeway and on many surface streets.

It wasn’t until early on Oct. 17 — hours after I-5 was reopened — that things finally got back to normal on the 75 miles of Highway 101 between Santa Maria and Carpinteria.

Northeastern Santa Barbara County had trouble of its own Oct. 16 after separate thunderstorms caused flash flooding and 50-yard debris flows across Highway 166 near Cottonwood Canyon east of Santa Maria.

Authorities said the flooding stranded as many as 100 vehicles, including a school bus. No one was injured.

If El Niño really does show up as rumored, this may be one big winter of motorist discontent.

2. UCSB Student’s Death Ignites Furor Over Circumstances of Emergency Response

Andres “Andy” Esteban Sanchez, a 19-year-old pre-biology major at UC Santa Barbara, died Oct. 11 after suffering a middle-of-the-night medical emergency in Isla Vista.

Andy Sanchez’s cause of death is still under investigation. (Facebook photo)
Andy Sanchez’s cause of death is still under investigation. (Facebook photo)

After his death, friends and witnesses came forward to criticize the actions of the law enforcement and medical professionals involved in the incident.

According to the Daily Nexus, UCSB’s student newspaper, five students allege that emergency dispatchers didn’​t take initial 9-1-1 calls seriously or respond quickly enough.

They further claim that Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies were lackadaisical and mishandled their interactions with Sanchez.

Finally, they assert that first responders discriminated against the Poway teenager and witnesses because they were Hispanic.

Oh, I almost forgot. Sanchez apparently fatally injured himself when he sliced open his arm after punching through a plate-glass window while allegedly under the influence of a controlled substance — possibly LSD or K2, according to his roommate.

No matter the circumstances, Sanchez’s death is a tragedy.

What is reprehensible, however, is the 1 + 1 = racism equation quickly leveled by five college students.

Authorities flat-out reject the accusations.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said emergency dispatchers began fielding 9-1-1 calls at 4:39 a.m. that Sunday. The callers reported that there was a man bleeding profusely, screaming for help and running around the 6700 block of Abrego Road, west of Camino del Sur.

According to the dispatch log, a county Fire Department engine and an American Medical Response ambulance were assigned within 30 seconds of the first 9-1-1 call. An Isla Vista Foot Patrol unit was on the way less than two minutes later, sheriff’s deputies arrived three minutes after them.

“The notion that any of the first responders — from dispatchers, to paramedics, to deputies — in any way did not care about this UCSB student, and did anything but try to promptly get him the medical care he needed, is absolutely not true and goes against the motivations of everyone involved ...,” Hoover said in a statement.

“The sheriff’s office is made up of professionals of all different races and does not tolerate racial discrimination whatsoever. There is zero validity to any claims regarding race in this tragedy.”

The Fire Department was just as blunt.

“Our members treat every emergency with urgency and professionalism,” fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said in a statement. “Engine 11’s crew on Oct. 11 included an experienced team of firefighters and paramedics.

“Every effort was made to provide the very best care and life-saving measures for this young man.”

Emergency personnel say Sanchez was combative when they first arrived. After they were able to subdue him, he was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. In the emergency room, Hoover said, he lapsed into unresponsiveness and was pronounced dead just before 7 a.m.

The cause and manner of death are being investigated by the sheriff’s Coroner’s Office.

GoFundMe donation site has been established to help Sanchez’s family with funeral expenses.

Will his friends apologize? Doubtful.

3. Carpinteria Woman Killed in Highway 101 Collision in Summerland

A 27-year-old Carpinteria woman died of injuries she suffered early on Oct. 17 when she lost control of her minivan on Highway 101 in Summerland, struck two parked semi trucks and slammed into the center divider.

The California Highway Patrol said Maria Patricia Mitropanopoulos was driving south on the freeway about 1:10 a.m. when she drifted off the roadway west of the Evans Avenue exit ramp and collided with two big-rigs parked on the wide right shoulder on Ortega Hill.

“The vehicle spun across the freeway in a clockwise direction and subsequently collided into the metal guardrail in the center median,” CHP Sgt. Jim Richards said.

He said Mitropanopoulos was taken by an American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

There were no other injuries in the wreck, but county Animal Services reportedly was summoned to tend to a small dog that survived the crash.

4. 2 Santa Barbarans Killed in Plane Crash Near Palm Springs

Two Santa Barbara-area residents were killed Oct. 17 when their small plane crashed in a rugged canyon near Palm Springs.

Santa Barbara aviator Bob Trimble had flown to Palm Springs to deliver military memorabilia to the Palm Springs Air Museum. (Accurate Aviation photo)
Santa Barbara aviator Bob Trimble had flown to Palm Springs to deliver military memorabilia to the Palm Springs Air Museum. (Accurate Aviation photo)

According to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor, the single-engine Piper PA28 went down about 3:50 p.m. in Morongo Canyon, 23 miles northwest of Palm Springs. Fierce thunderstorms were reported in the area about the time of the crash.

Because of the largely inaccessible terrain, rescuers didn’t reach the wreckage until Oct. 18.

One of the victims was Bob Trimble, general manager of Accurate Aviation in Santa Barbara. An avid pilot and decorated Vietnam War veteran, Trimble also was a counselor for the Alcohol and Drug Counseling Department at Santa Barbara City College.

The other victim was Terri Day, Accurate Aviations human resources and training manager, and the fiancée of company president Tom McGregor.

A company statement said the pair had flown to the desert to donate aviation and military memorabilia to the Palm Springs Air Museum.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

5. Woman Suffers Serious Injuries in Storke Road Crash

A woman and an 8-year-old child were hospitalized Oct. 16 after a two-vehicle crash on the Storke Road overpass in Goleta.

County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said a Lexus SUV slammed into the driver’s side of a Honda Accord shortly after 12:30 p.m.

A major extrication was required to free the Accord’s driver, who was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with serious injuries, Zaniboni said.

He said an 8-year-old in the SUV was taken to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital with minor injuries.

The crash is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol. The identities and conditions of the injured were not released.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web: Cubs’ Dreams Dashed in Loss to Metropolitans; Prayers of Wrigley Faithful Go Unanswered.

This is why The New York Times, my former employer, is truly one of the world’s great newspapers. It’s Old School magic.

                                                                 •        •        •

Well, they are retrievers.

(Bianca Richter 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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