Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 7:58 am | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Spared Canadian Couple Recounts Horrific Collision That Maimed Their Friends

'After we swerved, we heard a crash,' says Marnee Paterson, who expresses deep gratitude for first responders and Central Coast supporters

[Noozhawk’s note: The two Good Samaritans who rushed to help the crash victims have also talked with Noozhawk. Click here for the related story.]

Driven off Highway 101 by the late afternoon heat, two married couples and longtime friends decided to stretch their legs and take off their riding jackets after parking their motorcycles at the Olive Mill 76 gas station in Montecito.

The plan was for Ellen and Jim Atwood and Marnee and Bill Paterson to find a nearby hotel to crash in for the night after the Canadian tourists had spent the day riding down the Central Coast from Hearst Castle in San Simeon.

At the tail end of a more than two-week dream tour of the western United States, the friends from Ontario, Canada, were to return to Los Angeles the following day to drop off their bikes to be freighted home. Then they would hit the remaining stops on their travel checklist in a rental car before flying out of LAX a few days later.

Their plans and lives were drastically and forever changed about a mile down the road from the Montecito gas station, at 5:20 p.m. Wednesday, May 29.

Marnee Paterson, 57, sat tight behind her husband, who always rode lead bike because of his experience as a long-distance truck driver and good sense of direction. The Atwoods followed just at her back.

“I was looking to my right at the golf course,” Paterson told Noozhawk, recalling a view of Montecito Country Club as they traveled westbound on Old Coast Highway.

“Next thing I looked, the truck was coming right at us. In a blink of a second. It was after we swerved, we heard a crash.”

A red Toyota 4Runner — driven by a Montecito man who Santa Barbara police say was impaired — had crossed the center line and collided head on with Jim Atwood, 63, and his wife, Ellen, 59.

The Patersons came to a jolting stop and jumped from their bike unscathed.

“People were pulling up,” Paterson recalled. “I was yelling to call 9-1-1. Billy ran up to the accident site. He saw how bad it was and yelled to me not to come up. Probably for the first time in my life, I listened to him.”

An Army soldier recently deployed in Afghanistan was one of the first passers-by on the scene.

“He asked for Billy’s belt, and put a tourniquet on Jimmy’s leg and probably saved his life,” Paterson said.

Paramedics arrived soon after and took the severely injured Atwoods to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where doctors had to amputate the couple’s left legs. Ellen Atwood may yet lose her left arm, as well.

The grisly crash scene is something Bill Paterson said he didn’t want to talk about.

Instead, he focused on the amazing first responders and everyone at the hospital. He said they went above and beyond to reassure the shell-shocked visitors from another country.

“Everybody helped out,” he said. “Everybody there — the doctors, the nurses. They were all fantastic. It was unbelievable.”

The Patersons flew home three days later, a day before the couples had planned to return to Canada together.

A week and a half after the collision, the Atwoods are out of the ICU but remain hospitalized in a city they had never visited until going on a trip the couples spent two years planning.

The SUV driver — Martin Maguire, 51 — was arrested at the scene of the crash on a felony DUI charge. He pleaded not guilty during a June 4 court appearance and is no longer in custody after posting $160,000 bail. He’s scheduled to be back in court Thursday, when a date will be set for a preliminary hearing.

Paterson said the Atwoods, who were closing in on retirement and their 44th wedding anniversary, have received hospital visits from caring strangers.

She said the couple was in good spirits in spite of the circumstances, and that they haven’t been told when they can return home to Orangeville, about 50 miles northwest of Toronto.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen to them,” Bill Paterson said. “Where they’re going to live, if they can still keep their house, and obviously work. Jimmy was close to retirement.”

The Atwoods’ family back home is working to set up a fund for donations for medical expenses, and a collection is being taken at the Chrysler plant where Jim Atwood works. Ellen Atwood is employed by a local grocery chain.

Details on how locals can help are still being sorted out, although well wishes have already been extremely appreciated, Paterson said.

“One of the things that my brave friend said to me is, ‘What did I ever do to deserve this?’” she said, referring to Ellen Atwood. “I said, ‘You didn’t do anything. Nobody does anything to deserve this.’

“I don’t know why it happened to her and not to me.”

Still, Paterson repeatedly expressed gratitude for the embrace the Santa Barbara community has given them.

“Whether they just gave us a hug or whatever, but everybody was so helpful,” she continued. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to pay it forward if we’re ever in a situation like that.”

[Noozhawk’s note: If you wish to make a donation to the Atwoods to help cover their medical expenses, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.]

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.

Santa Barbara police and firefighters collect evidence and investigate the scene of a May 29 collision involving the red SUV in the background and a Canadian couple riding their motorcycle on Old Coast Highway. The couple, Ellen and Jim Atwood of Orangeville, Ontario, remain hospitalized with severe injuries, including the loss of their left legs. The SUV driver, Martin Maguire of Montecito, has pleaded not guilty to a felony DUI charge in the wreck and has been released on bail. (Urban Hikers photo)
Santa Barbara police and firefighters collect evidence and investigate the scene of a May 29 collision involving the red SUV in the background and a Canadian couple riding their motorcycle on Old Coast Highway. The couple, Ellen and Jim Atwood of Orangeville, Ontario, remain hospitalized with severe injuries, including the loss of their left legs. The SUV driver, Martin Maguire of Montecito, has pleaded not guilty to a felony DUI charge in the wreck and has been released on bail. (Urban Hikers photo)

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.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • 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 >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

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 >