Simon Chavez of Santa Barbara was fatally injured at about 1 a.m. Tuesday after several witnesses reported he was staggering in traffic on the freeway, according to Kelly Hoover, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
Santa Barbara police and California Highway Patrol officers responded to the scene within minutes, but they found Chavez dead on the southbound freeway between the Ortega Street foot bridge and the Castillo Street offramp, CHP Officer James Richards said.
The motorist who struck Chavez had fled the scene, and Richards said investigators believe the suspect was in a white Hyundai and kept driving southbound on Highway 101. Investigators determined the Hyundai had contact damage to the passenger-side front and side, and its passenger-side door mirror was located in the traffic lanes. Anyone with information about the driver is asked to call the CHP office at 805.967.1234.
Fred Warrecker, head coach of the Santa Barbara High baseball team had coached Chavez since his freshman year of high school, and worked with him while Chavez coached the junior varsity team.
Warrecker said he learned of Chavez’s death Wednesday morning, and was preparing to talk to the team at practice that afternoon.
“We’re all just shocked,” he said. “I don’t know what in the world he was doing on the freeway.”
Chavez graduated in 2008, and began coaching the junior varsity team two years ago.
“He was so positive about his own baseball experience that he wanted to stay around and volunteer,” said Michael Cooney, an assistant coach with the team. “He did a good job. The players liked him, the coaches liked him.
“He played a number of positions. He was never a star, but had a great attitude.”
Warrecker said Chavez was with the team almost every weekend and was always reliable.
Chavez had recently scaled back on coaching so he could take more units at Santa Barbara City College, where Warrecker said he was working toward his goal of becoming a teacher and a coach.
“You just couldn’t picture Simon without a smile,” he said. “He always wanted to help in any way he could.”