Saturday, December 16 , 2017, 4:16 pm | Smoke 64º


Local News

DA’s Office Decides Driver Won’t Be Charged in Collision That Killed Jogger

Ryuta Yamaguchi, 45, of Santa Ynez died in December when he was struck by a minivan driven by 89-year-old Grace Cota of Solvang

The elderly driver who struck and killed a 45-year-old Santa Ynez man while he was jogging last December in the Santa Ynez Valley will not face criminal charges for her part in the collision, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

Ryuta Yamaguchi was jogging north on Refugio Road near Deer Trail Lane shortly after 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2013, when he was struck, according to the California Highway Patrol, which completed its own investigation before handing the case over to the DA’s Office.

Yamaguchi was hit by Grace Cota, 89, of Solvang, who had been driving a Ford minivan eastbound on Deer Trail before stopping at Refugio Road, CHP Officer John Ortega said.

Yamaguchi was transported to Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Brooke Gerard told Noozhawk the driver could have been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter if enough evidence had been present to prove negligence beyond a reasonable doubt.

“They couldn’t establish that her behavior rose to the level of criminal negligence,” Gerard said of law enforcement’s investigation. “We reviewed it as well, and came to the same conclusion.”

At the time of the collision, CHP wouldn’t offer details about what might have caused the minivan to strike Yamaguchi as both entered the intersection, although intoxication did not appear to be a factor in the accident.

On Tuesday, CHP offered little else, citing insufficient evidence in the case to file charges and confirming that alcohol was not a factor in the collision.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >