There were 79,869 people who read Noozhawk this past week. For those of you who may have misremembered what your top stories were, here’s my take on them.

1. Tenant Chosen for Elephant Bar Restaurant Space at Santa Barbara Airport

Our Gina Potthoff’s 2013 exclusive on the Elephant Bar Restaurant closing was one of Noozhawk’s most-read stories that year. So it’s not surprising that there would be keen interest in her report of a replacement tenant finally being selected. It was our top story this week.

For almost 18 months, the forlorn, 8,700-square-foot space has sat vacant at 521 Firestone Road adjacent to the Santa Barbara Airport, which actually owns the property.

Last month, the Airport Commission approved a proposal from Fresno-based High Sierra Grill House to open a new restaurant in the building. The Santa Barbara City Council will consider the contract at its Feb. 10 meeting.

Expectations vary for when diners could place their first orders. Co-owner Manuel Perales says a new restaurant could be up and running as soon as this summer. Airport Director Hazel Johns says it could be nine months to a year, depending on renovations, including a possible new roof.

The menu is expected to be California coastal-influenced comfort foods such as smoked pulled-pork sandwiches, tri-tip, burgers, pizza, salads and fresh mango fish tacos.

Perales told Gina that breakfast, lunch and dinner would be served, and other planned features include a full bar, live music on Friday and Saturday nights, a Sunday buffet, catering and a gas fire pit on the patio.

Perhaps most important for the many local organizations that once used the Elephant Bar’s banquet rooms, indications are that they would be enthusiastically encouraged to return.

“We’re all familiar with Santa Barbara,” Perales said of his partners, Mario Medina, longtime owner and operator of Mulligans Café & Bar at the Santa Barbara Municipal Golf Course, and Santa Barbara native Paul Ybarra.

The three co-owners met while working in the now-closed Santa Barbara Carrows Restaurants, the chain founded by the late David Nancarrow, none other than the creator of the Elephant Bar. It’s a small world, after all.​

The driver of the truck in the back amazingly received only moderate injuries from this mangled mess on southbound Highway 101 in Summerland. (KEYT/KCOY News photo)

The driver of the truck in the back amazingly received only moderate injuries from this mangled mess on southbound Highway 101 in Summerland. (KEYT/KCOY News photo)

2. Lengthy Extrication Needed in Highway 101 Wreck in Montecito

The driver of a work truck was trapped — and injured — when his vehicle rear-ended a flatbed truck on southbound Highway 101 in Summerland early on Feb. 2.

A third vehicle was involved, too, but there were no other injuries in the 7 a.m. collision on Ortega Ridge east of Sheffield Drive.

Montecito Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Travis Ederer told our Tom Bolton that the extrication of the trapped driver took nearly two hours.

“The rails of the flatbed pushed through the engine compartment of the work truck, and pushed the dashboard onto the driver,”​ he said.

The position of the two vehicles made the rescue a complicated operation.

“Any time we moved any one of them, it caused pressure to be put on the patient,” Ederer said.

Two tow trucks and two sets of Jaws of Life rescue tools were used to free the man, who was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with moderate injuries.

The southbound side of the freeway was closed until about 9:20 a.m. while crews completed the rescue and cleanup. As you can imagine, traffic was backed up for miles.

The cause of the crash is being investigated by the California Highway Patrol.

3. Street Racing Blamed for Fatal Crash in Santa Maria; Second Driver Arrested

Teenagers, being teenagers, are going to end up making stupid choices. After a Jan. 30 basketball game between Righetti and Pioneer Valley high schools in Santa Maria, a group of teens made a series of stupid choices that ended with the most tragic of results.

A memorial service for Breeana Rodriguez will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Pacific Christian Center, 3435 Santa Maria Way in Santa Maria.

A memorial service for Breeana Rodriguez will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Pacific Christian Center, 3435 Santa Maria Way in Santa Maria.

According to Santa Maria police, two cars were in a street race on East Donovan Road just before 9 p.m. when one of the drivers ran a stop sign at Suey Crossing Road, failed to make a curve and slammed into a utility pole.

The driver, Breanna Rodriguez, a 17-year-old Righetti senior, was airlifted to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with massive injuries. She died a few hours later.

In her car, a Ford Focus, were four passengers, two of whom also were injured and required extensive extrication by firefighters.

Sgt. Mark Streker said a 17-year-old boy driving the second vehicle stopped momentarily after the wreck, but then fled the scene before police arrived. He reportedly had three passengers in his car.

“Even though the two vehicles did not collide with each other, the law requires all involved parties to remain at the scene,” Streker said.

“It was determined that the excessive speeds during the race by both drivers, and failure to stop at a stop sign by the deceased driver, were significant factors in this collision.”

Police estimated the teens were racing at speeds in excess of 60 mph in the 35 mph zone. It has not been determined whether alcohol or drugs were factors, Streker said.

The boy, a student at Pioneer Valley, was arrested the next night on suspicion of felony vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run charges. The youth, whose name wasn’t released because of his age, was booked into Santa Maria Juvenile Hall.

At a Feb. 4 hearing before Santa Barbara County Juvenile Court Judge Arthur Garcia, Rodriguez’s mother, Isabel, asked to speak.

As our Janene Scully first reported, the remarkably composed woman told the court she is painfully aware of what transpired but she asked for mercy for the boy.

“It doesn’t change who my kid was, and it doesn’t change who (the other driver) is,” she said, calling him “a good young man.”

“It breaks my heart to see him in here,” she added.

Garcia granted the boy house arrest, telling him he could attend school, meet with his attorney and go to probation sessions, but that’s about it. He’s banned from driving and isn’t allowed to have friends visit.

Isabel Rodriguez said her daughter would not want someone else to suffer for her actions, but, she added, “I understand that a lesson needs to be taught.”

Noting that her daughter had just begun work on a video warning against reckless driving, she said the family intends to carry on the cause and suggested they could use the boy’s help.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Pacific Christian Center, 3435 Santa Maria Way, and she asked Garcia to allow him to attend so he could speak about the consequences of reckless driving.​

“That’s a very important message,” Garcia agreed, but he cautioned that the boy’s attorney might not allow him to say anything because of the pending court case.

A smash-and-grab robbery at Churchill Jewelers in downtown Santa Barbara yielded high-end watches among the loot. (John Palminteri / KEYT News photo)

A smash-and-grab robbery at Churchill Jewelers in downtown Santa Barbara yielded high-end watches among the loot. (John Palminteri / KEYT News photo)

4. Police Seek Suspects in Santa Barbara Jewelry Store Robbery

Santa Barbara police are on the lookout for at least three suspects in connection with a Jan. 30 robbery at venerable Churchill Jewelers in the heart of downtown.

Sgt. Mike Lazarus said two masked suspects entered the store at 1015 State St. just after it opened that morning.

One of the suspects brandished a pistol, and both used hammers to break the glass display cases. Lazarus said the pair got away with an undisclosed amount of loot, including high-end watches.

They then scurried out the door and hopped into a car idling nearby with a third suspect as the getaway driver.

​No one was hurt in the heist.

Anyone with information about the robbery should call SBPD at 805.897.2300.

Every six weeks, Billy Guntle and Jennifer Parks of McDermott-Crockett & Associates Mortuary board a sailboat to scatter cremated remains in the waters below the Santa Barbara Cemetery. The ashes are from local residents who have been cremated but whose families are without resources or are unknown. 'We take care of people who don’t have anyone,' Parks says. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Every six weeks, Billy Guntle and Jennifer Parks of McDermott-Crockett & Associates Mortuary board a sailboat to scatter cremated remains in the waters below the Santa Barbara Cemetery. The ashes are from local residents who have been cremated but whose families are without resources or are unknown. “We take care of people who don’t have anyone,” Parks says. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

5. In Solemn Ceremony, Duo Carries Out Sacred Burials at Sea for Those Too Easily Forgotten

I’ve been reading Noozhawk for a long time and I’m pretty sure our Lara Cooper’s “final voyage” story is the best feature ​we’​ve ever published.

Rather than attempt to do it justice, I’m simply recommending that you click on the link and read it for yourself. It will fill your heart.

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What do adorable animals have to do with Android devices? Who cares!

(Android video)

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

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.