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Local News

Officers Injured as Alleged DUI Driver Collides with Police Vehicle

Jason Hunter, 29, of Goleta, was charged with DUI causing injury after the crash at El Sueno Road near Santa Barbara

Two Santa Barbara police officers suffered minor injuries Thursday night when their SUV was struck by a vehicle that veered out of control as it was exiting Highway 101, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The Subaru Outback that left the freeway at El Sueno Road was driven by Jason Hunter, 29, of Goleta, who was highly intoxicated at the time, according to Officer James Richards.

Hunter, who suffered minor injuries in the crash, was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, Richards said. Bail was set at $100,000.

The collision occurred just after 11 p.m. as Officers Craig Rullman and Andrew Merrett were southbound on Calle Real, returning from a prisoner transport to the nearby Santa Barbara County Jail, Richards said.

As the officers crossed the intersection with the northbound El Sueno Road offramp, Hunter was exiting the highway, but failed to negotiate the sharp curve in the roadway and struck the concrete divider.

The officers and another witness reported the Subaru was partially airborne when it broadsided the officers’ Ford Escape.

The force of the impact upended the Escape, pushing it into an oncoming Pontiac before the Escape came to rest on its side.

The SUV’s airbags deployed, trapping the officers inside, while the Subaru came to rest on its roof, with the driver unconscious inside.

A passer-by climbed onto the side of the Escape and assisted the officers out of the vehicle, after which the trio went to help the unconscious Subaru driver.

Hunter was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, as were the two officers, and all were treated and released.

The driver of the Pontiac, Cecelia Delila Juaez, 41, and her passenger, Stephanie C. Juarez, 19, both of Santa Barbara, escaped injury, Richards said.

Hunter registered a .16/.17-percent blood-alcohol level less than two hours after the crash, Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood said. That amount is twice the level at which a driver is considered drunk under California law.

The intersection as well as the off- and onramps to the highway were closed for about 2½ hours as physical evidence was collected.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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