‘She marched to her own beat’
Although she is still reeling from the tragic death of her friend Victoria Vaccarello, Elana Cantrelle appreciated the opportunity to share memories of the woman who was killed by an Amtrak passenger train April 25 in Montecito.
Ms. Vaccarello, 37, was a hair stylist and makeup artist at Salon Montecito by Elana Cantrelle on Coast Village Road.
“Victoria and I worked together at different salons in Santa Barbara for more than 10 years. She was a talented professional and a force to be reckoned with. She was strong and independent, a woman before her time. She marched to her own beat,” said Ms. Cantrelle, her voice quivering with emotion during a phone interview.
“If I had to describe Victoria in one word, I would say she was cool. She was the Steve McQueen of her time. She was the coolest dude — she exuded confidence. She was feminine, masculine, warm, caring and giving. She was never conceited. She looked fear in the eye.”
According to witnesses, Ms. Vaccarello was trying to rescue her dog when she was fatally struck by the train near Fernald Point at 12:27 p.m. on April 25.
“I’m sure she was on her way to the beach with her dog, Winnie, a pit bull that she rescued. They were probably going to spend a sunny afternoon at her favorite beach between Fernald Point and Summerland. It isn’t crowded, and she and Winnie had gone there dozens of times,” said Ms. Cantrelle.
That Ms. Vaccarello lost her life trying to protect Winnie didn’t surprise her friend.
“Victoria loved animals,” said Ms. Cantrelle, recalling an incident several years before when her dog, Lola, an 8-pound Brussels Griffon, was attacked by a large dog while she and Ms. Vaccarello were together.
“The dog had Lola pinned to the ground, and Victoria, who was on her cellphone, calmly reached down, pulled off the attacker and continued her conversation despite the chaos.”
Ms. Vaccarello was also a “phenomenal cook” who liked to prepare meals for family and friends.
“With her heritage, Italian dishes were her favorite,” said Ms. Cantrelle, who has set up a temporary memorial near the entrance to Salon Montecito, 1159 Coast Village Road, where people can sign a book and leave their thoughts about Ms. Vaccarello.
“There will also be information, once plans are finalized, about a celebration of Victoria’s life that will be held after the pandemic crisis is over,” she said.