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Bill Macfadyen: With Dawn’s Early Light Comes a Discovery of Dead Man Floating Off Stearns Wharf

NoozWeek’s Top 5 finds hallucinogenic drugs and trauma — not racism — to blame in UCSB student’s death, chases a pair of Highway 101 collisions, and puts away 2 rapist cousins for life

A hopeful rescue operation off Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf ended with a grim discovery.
A hopeful rescue operation off Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf ended with a grim discovery. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)


Noozhawk was tracking 101,106 readers this past week, most of them unvetted and not one of them using a Syrian IP address. Of course, the last I checked, the ISIS ​“caliphate” doesn’t have an IP address.

Now I’ll pop off on your top stories:

1. Man’s Body Pulled From Water at Santa Barbara Harbor

Authorities are investigating the death of a man who apparently fell off Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf before dawn Nov. 18.

His body was discovered floating near the pier about 7:45 a.m., but he already was dead when Harbor Patrol personnel pulled him out of the water.

Police Sgt. Todd Johnson said investigators obtained video that shows the man walking onto the wharf in the dark.

“It appears he was intoxicated or suffered a medical problem,” he said.

The man’s identity has not yet been released. The Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office is investigating the cause of death.

2. Hallucinogenic Drugs, Trauma Cited in UCSB Student’s Death

A 19-year-old UC Santa Barbara student was under the influence of powerful hallucinogenic drugs when he slashed his arm wide open last month in Isla Vista, the Coroner’s Office has concluded.

A fateful combination proved deadly for Andres “Andy” Esteban Sanchez. (Facebook photo)
A fateful combination of drugs proved deadly for Andres “Andy” Esteban Sanchez. (Facebook photo)

Andres “Andy” Esteban Sanchez, a pre-biology major from Poway, died in the Oct. 11 incident, which occurred in the 6700 block of Abrego Road, west of Camino del Sur.

After a month-long investigation, the coroner ruled the death “accidental.”

“The cause of death was determined to be ‘acute hallucinogenic polysubstance intoxication,’ with an additional significant cause of death being ‘sharp force trauma of the upper extremity,’” the coroner said.

Toxicology tests determined that Sanchez was under the influence of 25I-NBOMe and ketamine, both strong psychodelic drugs, and marijuana.

The results indicate that the combination may have led him to plunge his right arm through a plate-glass window, nearly severing the limb.

Within hours of his death, friends of Sanchez were accusing emergency personnel of incompetence, a lack of urgency and “racism,” the latter a charge that seems to be all the rage these days.

County sheriff’s and fire officials forcefully rejected all of the claims, saying their responders acted professionally and did everything they could to save the man, who was bleeding profusely, screaming and generally out of his mind as he ran in a panic around the neighborhood in the middle of the night.

They also forthrightly pointed out that the racial makeup of the first responders was a far cry from the picture painted of apparent knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

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

Frankly, the whole sorry episode begs the question of why Sanchez’s friends didn’t do more to prevent the circumstances that preceded the tragedy than they did to politicize it.

3. Possibly Suicidal Pedestrian Struck on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara​

A Goleta man was struck by a van as he tried to run across Highway 101 near La Cumbre Road just before noon Nov. 18. Authorities say he may have been suicidal, and they linked him to a second incident on Upper State Street a few minutes before.

California Highway Patrol Officer John Gutierrez said the man, identified as 19-year-old Quinton Williams-Muringani, was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with major injuries, including head trauma and internal bleeding.

He apparently had sprinted across the freeway’s northbound lanes, jumped the concrete center divider and was struck by the van as he began running across the southbound lanes.

Gutierrez said the van’s driver — Robert Muntzel, 55, of Ventura — was unable to avoid the collision. Muntzel suffered minor injuries in the wreck.

Five minutes earlier, Santa Barbara police Sgt. Todd Johnson said, officers had received a report of a man running in and out of traffic in the 3800 block of State Street near La Cumbre Plaza. He said they later determined it was Williams-Muringani.

Click here for free suicide prevention resources that are available 24 hours a day, or call 1.800.273.8255.

Wait right here. (Diego Topete photo)
Wait right here. (Diego Topete photo)

4. Highway 101 Crash Ties Up Traffic in Santa Barbara

A four-vehicle crash snarled traffic on southbound Highway 101 in Santa Barbara the morning of Nov. 13. Only minor injuries were reported.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the collision occurred just before 9 a.m. near the Highway 154 overcrossing.

One individual was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with minor injuries.

The CHP is investigating the cause of the wreck.

5. Men Convicted of Raping Santa Barbara Woman on East Beach Sentenced to Life in Prison

Two cousins were sentenced to life in prison Oct. 12 following their conviction in the rape of a 62-year-old Santa Barbara woman at East Beach.

In September, separate juries had each found Juan Carlos Herrera-Romero, 31, and Gabino Andres Romero, 28, guilty in the July 16, 2014, assault.

​Herrera-Romero faced a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison, while Romero faced a maximum sentence of 36 years to life.

Superior Court Judge Rick Brown handed down the maximum sentence to each of the men, citing the aggravated nature of the crimes, which involved the knifepoint sexual assault of the homeless woman while her 70-year-old partner was restrained nearby.

Both men are on immigration detainers, and Noozhawk confirmed that they likely were in the country illegally at the time of their crimes.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our top story this time last year? Woman Arrested on DUI Charges After Early Morning Crash in Santa Barbara.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

Pastafarians can noodle on this important development in my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web: Woman Wins Fight to Wear Spaghetti Strainer on Head for Drivers License Photo.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

I’m pretty sure my kids will howl at this video. I’m more like, “Dude, been there!”

(Evan Griffin 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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