What were you reading on Noozhawk this week?
A tip from a Noozhawk reader led to our top story of the week, executive editor Tom Bolton’s exclusive on a diving fatality off Padaro Lane.
Shortly after noon Aug. 3, a reader tweeted us to report that a friend of his had just pulled an unconscious diver from the surf. The victim had been discovered floating in the ocean but his would-be rescuers were unable to revive him.
Firefighters, paramedics and Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies arrived moments afterward, but the diver was declared dead at the scene, Carpinteria-Summerland fire Battalion Chief Mike Gallagher said.
Chase Blossom of Santa Barbara was one of the beachgoers who waded into the surf to get the victim to shore.
“He was clearly gone,” Blossom told Tom, adding that the man’s scuba regulator was still putting out air, although it was not in his mouth.
He said the man had no obvious injuries, and his scuba gear appeared new. Whatever the diver was doing, he didn’t appear to be using the buddy system.
The victim was later identified as William Frank Grgurich, 49, of Portland.
The cause of death remains under investigation.
Executive editor Tom Bolton is a bit of a police scanner buff. Fortunately for us, he actually knows what to do with the information when he hears the scratchy, cryptic calls from emergency dispatchers.
Such was the case on the morning of June 30 when he was listening to chatter about a mysterious car wreck off Mountain Drive in the foothills above Santa Barbara.
First responders had arrived on the scene to find a badly damaged SUV down a ravine 150 yards off the road, but turned up no trace of any victims. Tom called Santa Barbara fire and police officials, who told him the location was outside their jurisdiction. So he called the California Highway Patrol, which can be a bit of a mystery itself on the weekend.
Over the next several weeks, he confirmed that an arrest had been made but was unable to get the actual name. Without that, he couldn’t find out whether there were criminal charges pending or any injuries. Finally, on Aug. 4, he hit paydirt.
As it turns out, on the afternoon of the wreck, the father of a woman who had been a passenger in the vehicle took his injured daughter to the hospital and reported the incident to authorities.
CHP Officer James Studabaker told Tom that the subsequent investigation led to the July 5 arrest of Xochild Togo, 20, of Santa Barbara, the SUV’s registered owner and the driver.
Investigators believe several vehicles were involved in the incident and speculation is that they may have been racing on the dark and winding road. I know what you’re thinking so I’ll let Studabaker answer that:
“We also originally suspected that alcohol might be involved, but due to the time lapse (between the accident and the arrest), we were not able to get physical evidence.”
Togo is facing a single misdemeanor count of hit and run causing injury, according to the complaint filed by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.
Neither woman was seriously injured.
Thousands of riders turned out for the annual bicycle bacchanalia known as the Fiesta Cruiser Run on Aug. 4. For the first time, however, there was a bigger law enforcement presence to prevent bicyclists from flouting traffic laws and terrorizing unsuspecting motorists as they pedaled to Isla Vista from the Santa Barbara waterfront.
Noozhawk intern Frankie Victoria drew the short straw in a rigged contest so we sent her down to Stearns Wharf to cover the chaotic scene at the start, and then to drive along the 15-mile route to report what she encountered.
What she found wasn’t that bad. She said most of the riders appeared to be respectful of the safety issues and sensitive to the impacts such a sea of humanity has as it lurches down the road in a rolling mob scene.
To keep things in check, Santa Barbara police had warned ahead of time that they would strictly enforce bicycle traffic laws during the run and would be handing out tickets with fines up to $500 for violators.
Sgt. Riley Harwood, an SBPD spokesman, said officers issued 64 traffic citations and 12 municipal code citations, which would include open-container violations.
The young Santa Ynez woman who died in an Aug. 3 pickup truck rollover crash was described by her family and friends as a promising and creative musician and writer who was eagerly looking forward to her next adventure in life.
Charlotte MacLean had just turned 19 and was newly enrolled in Santa Barbara City College.
“She was a talented musician, very involved with the arts and had very supportive family,” Todd Mitchell, executive director of Family Partnership Charter School in Solvang, told Noozhawk’s Gina Potthoff.
“She was very social and will be missed by all of us.”
Her parents, Teresa McNeil MacLean and Doug MacLean of Santa Ynez, posted a memoriam to their daughter on Facebook.
“Doug and I have no idea how we will live with this loss,” MacLean’s broken-hearted mother wrote. “We know many of you knew Charlotte and loved her for her sweet, caring heart, as we have and always will.
“I will miss her beautiful voice, her music, her sense of humor, her advice, how hard she worked the last two years to better understand herself and her place in the world.”
MacLean died and five other people were seriously injured in the crash, which happened just before 7 p.m. Aug. 3 on Ballard Canyon Road north of Chalk Hill Road, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The CHP said the 16-year-old driver lost control of the truck, which overturned and ejected MacLean and two passengers riding illegally in the truck bed. The driver and the two passengers riding with him in the cab also were injured. The five survivors were taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
CHP Sgt. Daniel Barba said the driver, whose name has not been released because he is a minor, is facing felony charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving producing injury or death, as well as driving on a suspended license.
Barba said investigators have not been able to determine how fast the pickup was traveling, “but statements of witnesses put it very fast, over freeway speeds.”
A memorial gathering for MacLean is planned for Sept. 7 in Los Olivos.
Although I’m sure to get scolded for not stopping this week’s column after I wrote about the four most popular stories of the week, readers have kept my latest Paula Lopez column safely in the Top 5.
As a reminder, I get my material from you. I’m not choosing the topics each week, but am writing about the stories our readers have propelled to the top of our Google Analytics. Sometimes they surprise me, but there are a few that we now know are reliable traffic generators, among them great white sharks, the Elephant Bar Restaurant and … Paula Lopez.
Get well soon, Paula.
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It’s just preseason, but football is back! Here are the Manning brothers like you’ve probably never seen them before.
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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.