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Local News

Man Fights For Normal Life After Being Critically Injured In Highway 154 Crash

Bradley Asolas shares about struggles after collision caused by alleged DUI driver Jensen Buchanan, veteran soap opera actress

Bradley Asolas spent more than a month in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and a rehab facility, recovering from injuries suffered in a head-on crash in the Santa Ynez Valley last May. The other driver, soap-opera actress Jensen Buchanan, allegedly was drunk at the time, and is facing multiple felony charges. Click to view larger
Bradley Asolas spent more than a month in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and a rehab facility, recovering from injuries suffered in a head-on crash in the Santa Ynez Valley last May. The other driver, soap-opera actress Jensen Buchanan, allegedly was drunk at the time, and is facing multiple felony charges. (Contributed photo)

Bradley Asolas doesn’t mince words in describing what he's been through since an alleged drunken driver slammed into his vehicle in the Santa Ynez Valley last year.

“My life is forever ruined because she chose to drink and drive,” said the 57-year-old Asolas, who described living a healthy, active life before the crash.  

“I can no longer do any of the things I used to do," Asolas, an Arizona resident, told Noozhawk.

On May 18, he was driving to work in Santa Maria on Highway 154 west of Live Oak Campground when a vehicle driven by Jensen Buchanan, a veteran soap opera actress from Los Angeles, collided head-on with his Ford C-Max at approximately 6:20 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol. 

Buchanan’s eastbound 2016 Mercedes S550 drifted across solid double-yellow lines directly into the path of Asolas' westbound car, the CHP said. 

Buchanan had a blood-alcohol content of .34 percent, or four times the limit at which a person is presumed drunk under state law, leading to her arrest and criminal charges, authorities said.

The crash put Asolas on a long and difficult road to recovery. 

His injuries were numerous and severe — shattered pelvis and femur, broken humerus and ulna, fractured ribs, injured spine, and internal bleeding from lacerations to his spleen, pancreas and liver, to list some.

A heart attack suffered moments after the crash has complicated his recovery. 

Bradley Asolas is pictured with one of his grandsons months after surviving critical injuries in a HIghway 154 crash caused by an alleged drunken driver in May 2016. Click to view larger
Bradley Asolas is pictured with one of his grandsons months after surviving critical injuries in a HIghway 154 crash caused by an alleged drunken driver in May 2016. (Contributed photo)

“One of the worst things is while I was trapped in the vehicle and before they could cut me out of it, I had a heart attack,” he said. “That happened because of the stress of the accident. I didn’t realize that could happen but it does.”

During recovery, he also had a pulmonary embolism or blood clot that traveled to his lung. Other complications include fluid in his lungs and a bleeding ulcer.

In all, he spent 34 days in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and a rehab facility.

“A good portion of that time, they were trying to keep me alive,” he said.

He received multiple units of blood and spent a lengthy time in the intensive care unit, where he was intubated four times. 

“It was pretty horrific for my wife and my family being told I wasn’t going to make it,” Asolas said.

Normally, surgery would follow to restore blood flow to the damaged area of the heart. However, his numerous injuries made surgery too risky. 

That means a large portion of his heart muscle remains dead and blood can’t be restored. 

A defibrillator sits inside his chest to help keep him alive.

A cardiac surgeon bluntly told Asolas he should be dead. At some point, he may need a heart transplant.

“I live my life now with this cloud hanging over my head that I could just up and die one day,” Asolas said.

He attends physical therapy and cardiac rehab several times a week. Drugs help keep his heart working.

One of his legs and one of his shoulders have plates installed to repair broken bones.

Swelling in his knee means another MRI to figure out the cause. 

Medication he reluctantly takes eases some of the pain that wracks his body

“All of those are because she chose to drink and drive, and I was just on my way to work,” he said. 

Asolas grew up in Lakewood, California, living the typical Southern California lifestyle, including surfing.

He married his high school sweetheart, Sandy, and they moved in 1995 to Arizona, where they finished raising three now-grown children. 

Throughout his recovery, his wife has been his biggest supporter, but the changed role is difficult because he has served as her champion during her struggles.

On the day of the accident, they were between houses, with items in storage, so they were staying with his brother in Camarillo.

Three months earlier, a job switch brought the couple back to California, where he worked as operations manager for a Santa Maria company that camouflages cell towers to look like trees and water towers.

Before that, as a merchandising sales representatives for grocery stores, he regularly lifted 50-pound cases.

“I haven’t worked since this accident. I couldn’t if I wanted to just because of time I spend at the doctors,” he said. 

With a return to the California, he had hoped to take up surfing again.

But since the accident, even a trip to the grocery store or a family dinner can end early because of weakness. 

A full day of attending his grandsons’ baseball game and golf tournament was capped by a family dinner he had to leave early when he became ill.

“My body was just over it,” he said, adding that he went home in tears and apologized to his family that he can’t do what he once did.

After a recent stint at cardiac rehab, he realized he didn’t get a chance to gradually age.

“All of a sudden, I’m like some old man,” he said. "It sucks.”

Jensen Buchanan
Jensen Buchanan

Asolas said he doesn’t have a civil lawsuit pending and doesn’t plan to file one, but declined to elaborate.

He wants to share his story to show the effects of the crash on him in the wake of Buchanan’s latest criminal court appearance, where her attorneys were lobbying for probation, not prison time, and saying she has no prior criminal history.

Buchanan faces several charges, including felony driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, and felony driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or greater. 

She also is charged with causing great bodily injury to Asolas, and an allegation her blood-alcohol level exceeded .15 percent.

With both sides far apart on a plea deal, Judge Gustavo Lavayen will review the facts of the case and weigh in on what he thinks would be an appropriate outcome if Buchanan enters a guilty plea to the charges.

She is scheduled to return to court April 5, and if she does not enter a guilty plea, the case would move toward setting the date to hold a preliminary hearing.

After he was discharged from Cottage Hospital, Asolas and his wife returned to Arizona to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

“It just sucks my life is forever changed, and she can go on living life however she chooses,” he said. 

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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