What a wreck. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)
What a wreck. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

As summer gives way to June gloom, Noozhawk appears to be back on track with our traffic. According to our WordPress analytics, we had an audience of 135,341 readers this past week.

What follows is my own take on the Top Five stories you were reading during that period.

In case you’re new to these Best of Bill accounts, or have inexplicably forgotten, this is my opinion column that I write in my civic capacity as Noozhawk’s publisher. While it may contain updates on the news, it is not a news story and I am not a reporter.

1. Highway 101 Collision Sends 6 People to Hospital in Santa Barbara

Highway guardrails were damaged and ripped away in a Santa Barbara car crash early Tuesday morning. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)
I don’t think this guardrail goes here . (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

An astonishingly violent, multivehicle collision on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara injured six people and left debris all over — and well away from — the freeway just after midnight Sept. 12.

As our Tom Bolton reported, three vehicles collided in the highway’s southbound lanes just beyond the Carrillo Street exit ramp.

Santa Barbara fire Battalion Chief Michael Hoose said extrication was required to free occupants in two of the vehicles, and all six of the injured were transported by American Medical Response ambulances to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The identities and medical conditions of the six were not disclosed, but one was said to be in serious condition.

Hoose said several other vehicles were damaged by roadway debris. Two large sections of guardrail were ripped apart, with one piece and parts of its anchor blocks pulled out of the ground and propelled down onto the Carrillo Street exit ramp.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the circumstances of the wreck.

2. Bill Macfadyen: SBCC Theater Arts Student’s Isla Vista Cliff Fall a Tragedy All the Way Around

Portable restroom in Isla Vista.
The Isla Vista Community Services District has given the go-ahead for porta potties along Del Playa Drive, like this new addition at Water Capps Park in the 6700 block. (Rebecca Caraway / Noozhawk photo)

Less than two weeks after 19-year-old Santa Barbara City College student Benny Schurmer died after falling from the Isla Vista bluffs, officials have made an effort to prevent future tragedies.

Their solution? Porta potties.

As our Rebecca Caraway reported, the Isla Vista Community Services District is installing several portable restrooms along oceanfront Del Playa Drive, where a multitude of falls have occurred over the decades — including now 13 deaths.

Benny Schurmer was a theater arts major at Santa Barbara City College. (Schurmer family photo)
Benny Schurmer of Ojai, 2003-2023. (Schurmer family photo)

According to district director Spencer Brandt, many of the victims were believed to have been urinating when they fell.

“The goal is to provide more restroom accessibility,” he told Rebecca. “I’ve heard from constituents for a number of years that it is challenging to find a place to use the restroom on Del Playa.”

One porta potty already has been placed in Walter Capps Park in the 6700 block of Del Playa Drive, where Schurmer apparently was standing when he fell to his death the night of Sept. 2.

In addition to spending $15,000 on the privy project, the Isla Vista Community Services District discussed fencing options.

Public areas along the bluffs already are fenced but the district plans to explore improvements. Any changes will need approval from both Santa Barbara County and the California Coastal Commission, however.

Schurmer, a second-year SBCC theater arts major, is survived by his parents, Katie and Glenn Schurmer of Ojai, and siblings Emily, Bryan and Charlie.

A Sept. 7 candlelight vigil drew several hundred mourners to Ojai’s Nordhoff High School, where Schumer was a member of the Class 0f 2022.

A memorial service is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at Libbey Bowl, 210 S. Signal St. in Ojai.

As of Sept. 15, a GoFundMe account to help his family with expenses had raised nearly $67,000. Click here to make an online donation.

In addition to his passion for the theater, Schurmer was a standout member of the Nordhoff High golf team. His family says an annual memorial golf tournament will be established to raise funds for student scholarships.

3. 14 Residents Displaced by Fire at Student Housing Complex Near SBCC

Fire at the Beach City student housing complex in Santa Barbara.
The damage was extensive but there were no injuries in this Santa Barbara apartment fire. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)

A fire at an-off campus student housing complex near Santa Barbara City College displaced more than a dozen people from two apartments the night of Sept. 9.

As our Janene Scully and Serena Guentz reported, Santa Barbara firefighters converged on the Beach City apartments at 831 Cliff Drive around 9:30 p.m.

Fire Marshall Ryan DiGuillio told Serena that the fire was traced to an electrical malfunction in the three-story building’s common attic, which made it easy for flames to spread throughout the space.

Battalion Chief Robert Mercado said multiple units were evacuated while firefighters battled the blaze.

He said the fire left a pair of two-story apartments uninhabitable, one of them with major fire damage and the other with smoke damage.

DiGuillio said the circumstances of the fire remain under investigation.

There were no physical injuries, but 14 residents were displaced from the complex, which is on the southwest corner of Cliff and Loma Alta Drive across from SBCC’s main entrance and north of West Campus.

Delaney Smith of St. George & Associates, the owner of the complex, said all the displaced residents were placed in hotels.

“We will continue to house them as long as it takes for them to be able to go back home,” she said.

“St. George & Associates are committed to tenant safety above all else.”

4. SpaceX Rocket Has Late Night Launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base

A SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage landing on a drone ship in the ocean after launching satellites into orbit late Monday night.
After reversing course, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage comes in hot while landing on a drone ship early on Sept. 12. (SpaceX photo)

Accompanied by the familiar rumbling that reverberated throughout Santa Barbara County, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared away from Vandenberg Space Force Base just before midnight on Sept. 11.

The launch was the third from Vandenberg so far in September.

As our Janene Scully reported, the rocket lifted off at 11:57 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base, and delivered its latest batch of 21 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit about an hour later.

Not long after launch, the rocket’s first-stage booster landed successfully on the drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You, waiting several hundred miles away in the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier in the day, SpaceX and Canada’s Telesat satellite communications company signed an agreement for 14 missions carrying Telesat Lightspeed satellites into orbit.

Those SpaceX rides are to begin in 2026 and will launch from both Vandenberg and Florida.

5. Bankruptcy Attorneys Question News-Press Owner Wendy McCaw About Assets, Property Transfers

The weed-strewn sign at the entry into the former Santa Barbara News-Press printing plant in Goleta.
This was a state-of-the-art printing plant back in The New York Times era, but it was converted to a weed factory over the last twenty-something years. And by “weed,” I don’t mean cannabis. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

I hope the creditors get every dime they’re owed from the deep-pocketed dilettante who single-handedly destroyed Santa Barbara’s 155-year-old daily newspaper.

But I haven’t cared about it since August 2001, and each time I think I might change my mind, I end up carrying on living my life.

Read our Giana Magnoli’s latest report if you want to know more.

6. William W. ‘Billy’ Deardorff III of Santa Barbara, 1966-2023

The Nos. 5 and 6 stories went back and forth all week and, although 5 ultimately edged out 6 by a few dozen reads, I simply could not ignore the enduring reader interest in Billy Deardorff’s obituary.

Black and white photo of William W. Deardorff III riding a surfboard.
Billy Deardorff locks in while surfing Rincon Point. (Deardorff family photo)

It’s truly a heartfelt tribute by family and friends for the 56-year-old Santa Barbara man, who lost his lifelong battle with mental illness and substance abuse on July 9.

Deardorff, part of a prominent Oxnard farming family, moved with his parents to Carpinteria in 1976 and, later, to the Rincon.

According to his obituary, it was there at Serena Cove that he discovered his love for surfing and where he was happiest.

His family says his struggles with mental health and substance abuse began when he was in high school, and he was never able to escape them for long.

But he was never deterred, and Deardorff was “always willing to help others with their struggles,” his obituary said.

Deardorff is survived by his brothers and sisters-in-law, Scott and Leslie and Jamie and Susan, along with four nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Patricia and William Deardorff Jr.

A paddle-out ceremony for him is planned for 3 p.m. Sept. 30 at Rincon Point.

Rest in peace, and may the waves always break your way.

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Good Reads

Here are six other stories you should read, too:

» Sheriff’s Lt. Jarrett Morris Helping Identify Maui Fire Victims, Bringing Closure to Families — Staff writer Rebecca Caraway shares the story of Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Lt. Jarrett Morris, who is over on Maui making a huge contribution for devastated families suffering an unimaginable tragedy.

» Brush Fire Off Highway 166 East of Santa Maria Prompts Roadway Closure — North County editor Janene Scully is keeping an eye on a wildfire burning east of Santa Maria.

» Board of Supervisors Approves Funding for Urgent Santa Maria River Project — Janene wades into the Santa Maria River mess, and reports on the latest effort to protect Guadalupe from future flooding.

» Ray Ford: Understanding the Power of the Wind — With good reason, Santa Barbarans have a fearful respect for sundowner winds. Outdoors columnist Ray Ford explores the phenomenon.

» Mixed-Use Downtown Project with Expanded Memorial to Firefighter Earns Support of Santa Maria Planning Commission — Janene keeps up with the plans for a major development in downtown Santa Maria.

» Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame: John Zant Covered Many of Greatest Moments in Santa Barbara Sports History — Sports columnist Mark Patton is back with another terrific profile, this time of our old friend, John Zant. “Z” isn’t just one of Santa Barbara County’s greatest sportswriters, he’s the wittiest. My favorite Zant-ecdote came after Sports Illustrated published a photograph of the University of Oregon marching band performing at the Rose Bowl, a shot that included his son: “It’s every father’s dream to have a Sports Illustrated picture of his son playing in the Rose Bowl.”

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Body of Missing Hiker Found in Gaviota After Intensive Search.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

This is just gnarly, and a little creepy: Mysterious Driftwood Home Appears on Pacifica Cliff Face.

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Best of Bill’s Instagram

I know you’ve been missing my grandson, Nico, in my Instagram feed. You’re welcome.

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Watch It

Been there.

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(Holderness Family Laughs video)

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.