Wrongful-death lawsuit filed in MTD crash
SANTA BARBARA — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court against Santa Barbara MTD and a bus driver in connection with a fatal bus crash that occurred last October.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 19 by law firm Sanger Swysen & Dunkle, was filed on behalf of Janel Smit and Craig Johnson, the sister and brother, respectively, of Debra Eve Johnson, who was killed in the crash that occurred Oct. 9, 2019, at the corner of Chapala and De la Vina streets.
According to the lawsuit, Ms. Johnson was sitting on a bench on Figueroa Street waiting for her bus to arrive. The bus driver, Aura Leticia Mijangos, made a right-hand turn onto West Figueroa Street “accelerated, jumped the curb, struck Evie Johnson and crushed Ms. Johnson under the bus,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs believe, based on an investigation by the Santa Barbara Police Department, that Ms. Mijangos “negligently depressed the gas pedal instead of the brake causing the bus to jump the curb,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses Ms. Mijangos of vehicular manslaughter, as well as breaching her duty of care, traveling at unsafe speeds and making an unsafe turn by driving on the sidewalk. In addition, the lawsuit states that the MTD is liable for the driver’s negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior.
The plaintiff’s demand a trial by jury. They are seeking relief for general and special damages, costs of the lawsuit and any other relief the court deems proper.
In June, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office filed a misdemeanor manslaughter charge against Ms. Mijangos and accused her of ordinary negligence, or the failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to oneself or someone else.
One other pedestrian was injured in the crash, and several occupants on the bus also suffered injuries, according to District Attorney Joyce Dudley.
It remains unclear when Ms. Mijangos will return to court due to COVID-19 restrictions.
A planned Aug. 17 hearing for the misdemeanor charge was vacated, as the court is currently not scheduling misdemeanor cases for defendants who are out of custody, authorities said.
— Mitchell White
Police release video of officer-involved shooting
SANTA MARIA — The Santa Maria Police Department has released video footage from an officer-involved shooting that occurred in June near Boomer’s Miniature Golf Arcade, at 2250 N. Preisker Lane.
Along with the footage, police released the completed Critical Incident Community Briefing report in both English and Spanish, as well as the factual information surrounding the shooting. The shooting occurred on June 21, following 911 reports of a man waving a gun in front of numerous community members at the arcade, according to a news release.
“The first Santa Maria police officer arrived shortly after the 911 call was received and observed the suspect near the intersection of Broadway and Preisker Lane,” police said. “The suspect brandished a handgun and an officer-involved shooting occurred. The officer’s in-car video system captured the incident.”
Police said they will release incident briefings in the future “after carefully evaluating any effect the release may have on the integrity of the investigation, the degree of public interest in the event, the availability of Department Resources and any constraints resulting from current or upcoming legislation.”
Viewers are advised that the video contains graphic content.
To view the video, visit https://www.cityofsantamaria.org/city-government/departments/police-services/police-news-briefs and view the “Community Incident Community Briefing” tab.
Questions can be directed to Cmdr. Marc Schneider at 805-928-3781 Ext. 2150.
— Mitchell White
Safety tips issued for hikers, pets
Ahead of an upcoming heatwave on Labor Day weekend, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department has issued some safety tips for hikers and pets.
During the recent heatwave, the fire department responded to multiple calls for service due to heat-related illness for both humans and their dogs, resulting in several helicopter hoist rescues and the unfortunate death of a dog. Hikers are reminded of steps they can take to ensure a safe hiking experience, said Capt. Daniel Bertucelli, fire spokesman.
Hikers are reminded to pay attention to weather forecasts, not to be overly ambitious and select the right hike and to try and be out early in the day to avoid the most intense sun exposure. In addition, they are advised to wear loose and light clothing, a hat to keep the sun off their face and neck, and to use and pack sunscreen. They are also reminded to take a basic first aid kid, continually hydrate and to avoid traveling alone.
Hikers are also advised to be sure their pet is healthy and exercises regularly before taking a long hike. Bring more water than you think you will need, as well as a collapsible bowl for your pet, and to never leave their pet alone in a parked car.
Some of the symptoms for overheated pets include: excessive panting; increased heart and respiratory rate; drooling; weakness; seeming distant or unresponsive; and seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting
“Pets have limited ways to cool down with dogs relying only on panting — an inefficient means of cooling,” Dr. Dave Dawson, veterinarian at Montecito and San Roque Pet hospitals, said in a news release. “Do not put your pets in danger of heat-related death. You love them too much!”
— Mitchell White.