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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 5:52 pm | Fair 58º


Driver Involved In Fiery Fatal Crash in Santa Maria Pleads Guilty

Travis Dashek will be sentenced next month for role in death of Ashley Kerr in December 2014

Travis Dashek, 23, of Santa Maria pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and other charges in connection with the December 2014 crash that claimed the life of Ashley B. Kerr. He will returned to court next month and faces two years and eight months in prison.
Travis Dashek, 23, of Santa Maria pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and other charges in connection with the December 2014 crash that claimed the life of Ashley B. Kerr. He will returned to court next month and faces two years and eight months in prison. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A man accused of driving while intoxicated and causing a crash that killed one passenger and injured another in Santa Maria 15 months ago pleaded guilty to the charges on Monday.

Travis Dashek, 23, of Santa Maria, entered the pleas during a hearing in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria.

Dashek was under the influence of alcohol and drugs on Dec. 28, 2014 when the 1999 Chevy Blazer he was driving and pulling a trailer struck the guardrail and went off southbound Highway 101, south of Donovan Road, at about 5:20 p.m., the California Highway Patrol said.

The vehicle hit two trees off the right side of the roadway, then struck the sound wall before slamming into a third tree and becoming engulfed in flames, the CHP said.

A female passenger, Ashley B. Kerr, 25, was trapped inside the wreckage and declared dead at the scene after suffering major head trauma and burns, the CHP said.

A male passenger, Kurt Hixenbaugh, also was injured in the crash along with Dashek.

In the agreement, Dashek pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence, with a special allegation of causing great bodily injury. He reportedly had both alcohol and drugs in his system.

Charges initially were filed in August 2015, and Dashek has made several court appearances in recent weeks as both sides attempted to reach an agreement. 

Ashley B. Kerr
Ashley B. Kerr (Kerr family photo)

“It was the best outcome taking into account the fact that the victim’s family would have to go through trial,” said Deputy District Attorney Tristan Verburgt. “And I think it’s an appropriate sentence.”

Under the plea agreement, Dashek is expected to be sentenced to two years and eight months in state prison. He will have to serve at least 85 percent of the time.

In addition to prison time to hold him accountable for the death, Dashek also will receive a strike under California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law to serve as a deterrence from driving, the prosecutor said.

“I think that’s something the victim’s family wanted,” he added.

During Monday morning’s brief hearing, Judge James Voysey ordered Dashek to return to court for sentencing on April 11, when Kerr’s family and friends are expected to submit victim’s impact statements.

Dashek was represented by attorney Michael Scott who declined to comment Monday beyond saying, “It’s a very sad situation.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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