Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 10:31 pm | Light Rain Fog/Mist 57º


Local News

Girl Fatally Injured in Accident Near Santa Ynez High

Carina Velazquez, 15, was struck by vehicle while crossing Highway 246 near Refugio Road

A roadside memorial has been set up near where Carina Velazquez, 15, a Santa Ynez high school student, was struck by a vehicle and fatally injured Thursday evening.
A roadside memorial has been set up near where Carina Velazquez, 15, a Santa Ynez high school student, was struck by a vehicle and fatally injured Thursday evening. (Kimberley Grant photo)

A teenage girl who was walking home from a school activity was fatally injured Thursday evening when she was struck by a vehicle near Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

The accident occurred at 6:50 p.m. on Highway 246, west of Refugio Road, according to California Highway Patrol Officer John Ortega.

A Chrysler minivan driven by Greta Garofallou, 83, of Lompoc was westbound on 246 when it struck the 15-year-old Santa Ynez Valley Union High School student, Ortega said.

The girl was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with major injuries, Ortega said.

The CHP could not provide her name or confirm her death, Ortega said, but Santa Ynez High School Principal Mark Swanitz told Noozhawk that he was notified by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department Friday morning that the victim was Carina Velazquez, a freshman at the school.

Carina Velazquez

Carina passed away at the hospital Thursday night with her parents by her side, Swanitz said.

Announcements about the accident and Carina's death were made to students Friday morning, Swanitz said, and counselors were on hand to help students affected by the incident.

Carina had been attending an FFA event at the school, and was on her way home at the time of the accident, Swanitz said.

"We are managing," Swanitz said of the mood at the school. "Obviously, we are caring for students who are here, who obviously are distraught."

Swanitz said he did not know Carina well, but her teachers described her as a "smart, quiet, very sweet, kind and caring kid."

A Facebook page has been set up in Carina's memory.

The FFA program, Swanitz said, "was kind of like her family here at school."

Kimberley Grant, a friend of the Velazquez family, told Noozhawk that Carina's parents and younger brother and sister are "completely and totally devastated" by her death.

Grant, whose daughter is friends with Carina's sister, noted that the family lives just a few blocks from the high school.

The place where Carina was crossing the road has a traffic signal, but Swanitz noted that "it's a bit of a blind corner...and the sun this time of year at that time of day is brutal."

Swanitz said school officials have contacted the CHP to see what can be done to make the intersection safer.

Alcohol and drugs were not believed to be factors in the accident, according to the CHP, which is continuing its investigation.

Anyone who witnessed the accident is asked to contact the Buellton CHP office at 805.688.5551, Ortega said.

A fundraiser is planned for 1 p.m. Sunday at Solvang Park, at Mission Drive and First Street, where the Santa Ynez Valley Jazz Band will perform while donations will be accepted.

Additionally, a Go Fund Me fundraising page to help the family get donations for their expenses is available here.

Noozhawk Executive Editor Tom Bolton contributed to this report.

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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