Saturday, September 22 , 2018, 5:25 am | Fog/Mist 60º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Vehicle Crashes Off Highway 101 Near Refugio State Beach

First responders found the vehicle empty; driver located nearly two hours later on the beach with minor injuries

Emergency personnel were searching Thursday afternoon for the occupant of a vehicle that ran off southbound Highway 101 near Refugio State Beach and ended up on the railroad tracks. Click to view larger
Emergency personnel were searching Thursday afternoon for the occupant of a vehicle that ran off southbound Highway 101 near Refugio State Beach and ended up on the railroad tracks. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

Emergency personnel were surprised to find no driver Thursday afternoon when they responded to a vehicle that careened off Highway 101 and ended up on the railroad tracks along the Gaviota Coast .

The incident began shortly before 1 p.m., when a State Parks ranger approached Ana Ahumada, 30, of Santa Barbara for a welfare check in her car at Calle Real and Refugio Road, near Refugio State Beach,  according to the California Highway Patrol.

Approaching the driver-side window, the ranger "observed unusual behavior and lots of movements as if she was hiding something on her seat," the CHP said in its report.

Moments later, Ahumada "placed the vehicle in reverse and made an evasive maneuver," and fled the scene westbound.

The ranger was unable to locate the vehicle until a few minutes later, when it was reported in a crash.

The Corolla was southbound on Highway 101 — near Vista Point, north of Refugio State Beach — at a high rate of speed when, for unknown reasons, it careened of the roadway at about 1 p.m., the CHP said.

The Corolla, which was reported traveling in excess of 100 mph prior to the crash, struck a utility pole, bringing down power lines, before coming to rest against a berm along the railroad tracks, according to Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

County firefighters who responded found the vehicle empty, and began a search of the surrounding area for possible victims, Zaniboni said. They were assisted by personnel from the CHP, the county Sheriff's Department and State Parks.

A county helicopter was called in, and eventually located Ahumada, who had sustained minor injuries. She was found on the beach about half a mile north of the crash site, Zaniboni said.

Because of wet and slippery conditions on the 100-foot cliff above the beach, the helicopter was used to hoist Ahumada to safety, and she was flown to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of cuts and scrapes.

Railroad traffic was halted in the area until the wreckage was cleared from the tracks.

The investigation into the crash was continuing, the CHP said, adding that it was not known whether drugs or alcohol werefactors

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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.

The driver of a car that careen off Highway 101 and crashed Thurday afternoon near Refugio State Beach is hoisted to a county helicopter before being airlifted to the hospital. Click to view larger
The driver of a car that careen off Highway 101 and crashed Thurday afternoon near Refugio State Beach is hoisted to a county helicopter before being airlifted to the hospital. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

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