Bus accident causes one fatality and closure of lower Cliff Drive


James Von Essen

Santa Barbara Police Department investigates a vehicle collision on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, west of the intersection of Cliff Drive and Rancheria Street. Officers (from left) Scott Naganuma, Carl Kamin, Sergeant Dan Tagles, Senior Deputy Sheriff Jeff Farmer, and Traffic Investigator Ethan Ragsdale discuss details about how the incident occurred.

AIDAN ANDERSON, Channels Staff

A woman sustained fatal injuries in a vehicle accident Wednesday morning after striking a Metropolitan Transit District bus on lower Cliff Drive, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department.

The vehicle, a Mercedes Benz, was heading eastbound near the intersection of Cliff and Montecito. The driver hopped the curb onto the sidewalk, collided with a rock wall, and careened back into traffic, colliding with the bus traveling alongside. The driver, a 72-year-old Santa Barbara resident, was transported to Cottage Hospital and died shortly after. Her identity has not been released pending the notification of her next of kin.

The bus driver was taken to Cottage Hospital with non life-threatening injuries, and all 14 passengers were unharmed. Around 14 police officers, the fire department, and two AMR ambulances responded to the scene.

Just prior to the crash, police received a 911 call reporting a reckless driver in the area. Officers are investigating whether or not the report is connected to the driver involved in the accident. Additionally, the bus in question has been impounded pending the results of the investigation.

The police department in conjunction with the sheriff’s office will work together to compile evidence related to the crash, including footage from the on-board camera installed in the bus. The Mesa Fuel Depot gas station is also cooperating with the investigation by providing video footage from security cameras, as it is suspected the driver of the Mercedes was there prior to the wreck.

The accident was deemed severe enough to warrant a response by the Critical Accident Team, a specialized traffic unit from the Santa Barbara Police Department. The team will reconstruct what happened at the scene in the hopes of putting together a more comprehensive picture of how the events unfolded.

The stretch of Cliff Drive between Loma Alta and Castillo has been closed following the collision, however the bus will continue to service the bus routes to and from City College. Students should heed all police caution tape barring entrance to Cliff Drive and the bus stop outside East Campus, and await bus arrivals on the opposite side of the Loma Alta intersection.

“It is possible the road will remain closed for the afternoon commute,” said Luz Reyes-Martin, Executive Director of Public Affairs and Communications at City College, in a notification to students. “You should consider alternate routes for your afternoon commute if the closure impacts your normal routine.”