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Bill Macfadyen: Paddleboarder’s Death Leaves Heartbreak Throughout Santa Barbara

A JEOPARDY! quiz kid, a wrong-way fatal crash on Highway 101, the future of Deckers Brands and the Sherpa Fire cause round out NoozWeek’s Top 5

Davies Kabogoza, who died in an April 29 paddleboarding accident, overcame long odds to earn his kinesiology degree from Westmont College last year. “The entire Westmont family is grief-stricken in the loss of Davies,” Westmont President Gayle Beebe said. “He was a wonderful part of our community.” Click to view larger
Davies Kabogoza, who died in an April 29 paddleboarding accident, overcame long odds to earn his kinesiology degree from Westmont College last year. “The entire Westmont family is grief-stricken in the loss of Davies,” Westmont President Gayle Beebe said. “He was a wonderful part of our community.” (Brad Elliott / Westmont College photo)

National Nurses Week is celebrated every May 6-12, concluding on Florence Nightingale’s birthday to commemorate history’s most famous nurse. Or maybe that date was foreseen by Andrew Jackson. I’ve heard it both ways.

Regardless, it’s a time to honor the hard work that nurses do to make a difference in the lives of their patients — day and night. My mom, now retired, was a Registered Nurse, as was her mother before her. I can appreciate the long and grueling shifts as well as the dedication to their calling.

Click here for Noozhawk’s 2017 Salute to Nurses section, which is sponsored by Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, Cottage Health, the Outhwaite Foundation and the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College.

And thank you to all of our community’s nurses.

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There were 121,345 people who read Noozhawk this past week, according to our Google Analytics. This is my own take on your Top 5 stories:

1. Body of Missing Paddle-Boarder Recovered from Water at Santa Barbara Harbor

Davies Kabogoza, a popular and ebullient Westmont College graduate, died the afternoon of April 29 after he disappeared while stand-up paddleboarding at the Santa Barbara Harbor.

Authorities say Kabogoza fell off his rented board and went under about 4 p.m. He never resurfaced.

Two hours later, divers located his body in about 30 feet of water to the west of Stearns Wharf.

Kabogoza, a 30-year-old native of Uganda, arrived in Santa Barbara in 2010, sponsored by a member of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. He attended Santa Barbara City College and graduated from Westmont in 2016 with a degree in kinesiology.

He played soccer for both schools, was a volunteer coach at SBCC and Laguna Blanca School, and was training to be a physical therapist.

“The entire Westmont family is grief-stricken in the loss of Davies,” Westmont President Gayle Beebe said. “He was a wonderful part of our community and had just graduated this past year.

“He returned to campus this fall to tell his story of perseverance and tenacity in overcoming almost impossible odds to come to America, and to attend and graduate from Westmont. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

From a rescue operation to one of recovery on April 29 in the Santa Barbara Harbor. Click to view larger
From a rescue operation to one of recovery on April 29 in the Santa Barbara Harbor. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

The tragedy cast a heartbreaking cloud over the Westmont campus, a week before the joy and triumph of commencement.

The Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office was investigating the cause of death.

Witnesses reported blustery conditions in the harbor that afternoon. A companion who was paddleboarding with Kabogoza also fell about the same time, but she was rescued by the Harbor Patrol without incident.

The search operation included the Harbor Patrol, rescue swimmers from the Santa Barbara Fire Department, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department Dive Team, which happened to be in the vicinity on a training exercise.

A GoFundMe page has been established to pay for Kabogoza’s remains to be returned to Uganda for burial, to help care for his ailing mother and for humanitarian needs in his home village. Click here to make an online donation.

For six days, Alan Lin of Santa Barbara got to hang out with 'JEOPARDY!' host Alex Trebek. ('JEOPARDY!' photo)
For six days, Alan Lin of Santa Barbara got to hang out with JEOPARDY! host Alex Trebek. (JEOPARDY! photo)

2. Santa Barbara Software Engineer to Compete on JEOPARDY! Next Week

For the rest of his life, Santa Barbara software engineer Alan Lin will be the answer to a trivia question thousands of people aspire to be each year.

If anyone wonders who won $123,600 during a six-day winning streak on JEOPARDY!, he can proudly point to himself and reply, “Who is this guy?”

On April 24, Lin made his debut on “America’s Favorite Quiz Show,” which airs on KSBY. He took his clues from host Alex Trebek until May 2, when Philadelphia attorney Liz Fischer finally sent him home — considerably richer.

The 25-year-old Caltech alumnus has been good-natured about his claim to fame, describing his experiences on Twitter and in a Reddit discussion.

Wrong way + no seat belt = this. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
Wrong way + no seat belt = this. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

3. Wrong-Way Driver Killed in Highway 101 Crash Near Los Alamos​

A Santa Maria man driving on the wrong side of Highway 101 was killed the night of May 2 in a head-on collision with a big rig near Los Alamos.

According to the California Highway Patrol, 79-year-old Florian Paul Sowinski was driving a Dodge Grand Caravan north in the southbound lanes when he crashed into an oncoming tractor-trailer a half-mile south of Palmer Road.

The impact flipped the van into the freeway median. The CHP said Sowinski, who was not wearing a seat belt, was declared dead at the scene.

The truck driver — Stan Ormonde, 66, of Templeton — escaped injury in the crash. A third vehicle was damaged when it plowed into the wreckage, but the driver — Brenton Clough, 48, of Santa Barbara — was not hurt.

The CHP is investigating the circumstances and cause of the collision.

Deckers Brands appears to be on uncertain footing with its shoe lines. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)
Deckers Brands appears to be on uncertain footing with its shoe lines. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

4. Goleta-Based Deckers Brands Considering Putting Itself Up for Sale

Goleta-based Deckers Brands — the maker of UGG boots, Teva sandals, Hoka One One running shoes and other popular footwear — is exploring its options as a company, announcing that a range of “strategic alternatives” is on the table, including a potential sale.

“We have made significant progress in streamlining our cost structure, optimizing our retail store fleet and realigning our brands, with the goal of improving profitability,” Deckers CEO Dave Powers said.

“The management team continues to remain focused on driving improvements in the business through our recently announced $150 million savings program.”

If there’s not enough Bob Slydell in that statement for you, Powers also used words like “additional margin-enhancing opportunities,” “articulate more details” and upcoming year-end earnings.”

Boy, he’s just a straight shooter with upper management written all over him, wouldn’t you agree?

Weak holiday sales did a number on Deckers’ stock price over the winter, and Red Mountain Capital Partners LLC, a Los Angeles investment management firm with a 3.3 percent stake in the company, believes a sale or merger will help turn that around.

That may — or may not — be true, but it certainly has the attention of the South Coast business community, even if many local elected officials may not have noticed in their euphoria over Venoco’s demise.

Deckers employs more than 1,000 people at its gleaming, marquee corporate headquarters on the corner of Hollister Avenue and Los Carneros Road. It’s environmentally friendly, socially conscious and hugely philanthropic in this community. The Deckers workforce volunteers all over the place, and those well-paid jobs have a ripple effect in the local economy — even if the overall financial impact is not nearly as great as, say, Venoco’s.

I think it would be a real shame if any of that were to go away. I hope I’m not alone.

Rancho La Scherpa, near the top of Refugio Canyon west of Goleta, was Ground Zero of the Sherpa Fire last June. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk file photo)
Rancho La Scherpa, near the top of Refugio Canyon west of Goleta, was Ground Zero of the Sherpa Fire last June. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk file photo)

5. Officials Say Sherpa Fire Accidentally Caused by Retreat Center Resident

For nearly a year, there has been speculation and suspicion about the cause of the Sherpa Fire, the 7,500-acre conflagration that ignited in upper Refugio Canyon on the Gaviota coast the afternoon of June 15, 2016.

The wildfire raged for more than a month, forcing the evacuation of rural residences, ranches and campgrounds, and twice shutting down Highway 101. For a while, there were fears the fire would march all the way to Goleta, about 15 miles to the east.

At its peak, nearly 2,200 firefighters were deployed on the blaze, and suppression costs topped $18 million.

On May 2, county fire officials announced the results of their investigation, which determined the fire was started accidentally at the Rancho La Scherpa retreat center in the 2500 block of Refugio Road.

According to fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni, a retreat center resident was burning a log in an indoor fireplace when the cabin began to fill with smoke.

He said the resident, whose name was not disclosed, carried the burning log outside to douse the flames, but embers fell on the ground and set the dry brush on fire. Gusty winds then took it from there — literally.

Shortly after the wildfire broke out, sources had told Noozhawk that it was human-caused and accidental. Authorities previously had confirmed the investigation was not a criminal one.

Zaniboni blamed the delay in announcing the cause on legal and liability issues.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Woman Critically Injured, Donkey Killed in 2-Vehicle Wreck on Highway 154 in Los Olivos.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

No more livin’ it up at the Hotel California: The Eagles Sue Hotel California.

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Watch It

HT to the quack-thinking duck commanders in the Pearland (Texas) Police Department.

 

Duckling Rescue Caught on Video - Around 10:30 p.m.April 16, 2017, Pearland (Texas) Police Sgt. Adam Carroll and Officer Matthew Webb conducted a rescue of 12 ducklings that had fallen into a storm drain. Carroll was alerted by the mother duck, which can be seen pacing near the drain at the start of the video. As the rescue was carried out, the mother duck would periodically fly over and check the officers’ progress. The ducklings were reunited with their mother, who no doubt gave them a stern talking to!

Posted by Pearland Police Department on Monday, April 24, 2017

(Pearland Police Department 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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