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Vehicle crashes off Hwy. 101, lands on railroad tracks in Santa Barbara County

Emergency personnel were searching Thursday afternoon, Jan. 19, 2017, for the occupant of a vehicle that ran off southbound Highway 101 near Refugio State Beach and ended up on the railroad tracks.
Emergency personnel were searching Thursday afternoon, Jan. 19, 2017, for the occupant of a vehicle that ran off southbound Highway 101 near Refugio State Beach and ended up on the railroad tracks. Noozhawk

Update, 6:45 p.m.

Emergency personnel were surprised to find no driver Thursday afternoon when they responded to a vehicle that careened off Highway 101 and ended up on the railroad tracks along the Gaviota Coast.

The incident began shortly before 1 p.m., when a State Parks ranger approached Ana Ahumada, 30, of Santa Barbara for a welfare check in her car at Calle Real and Refugio Road, near Refugio State Beach, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Approaching the driver-side window, the ranger “observed unusual behavior and lots of movements as if she was hiding something on her seat,” the CHP said in its report.

Moments later, Ahumada “placed the vehicle in reverse and made an evasive maneuver,” and fled the scene westbound.

The ranger was unable to locate the vehicle until a few minutes later, when it was reported in a crash.

The Corolla was southbound on Highway 101 — near Vista Point, north of Refugio State Beach — at a high rate of speed when, for unknown reasons, it careened of the roadway at about 1 p.m., the CHP said.

The Corolla, which was reported traveling in excess of 100 mph prior to the crash, struck a utility pole, bringing down power lines, before coming to rest against a berm along the railroad tracks, according to Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

County firefighters who responded found the vehicle empty, and began a search of the surrounding area for possible victims, Zaniboni said. They were assisted by personnel from the CHP, the county Sheriff’s Department and State Parks.

A county helicopter was called in, and eventually located Ahumada, who had sustained minor injuries. She was found on the beach about half a mile north of the crash site, Zaniboni said.

Because of wet and slippery conditions on the 100-foot cliff above the beach, the helicopter was used to hoist Ahumada to safety, and she was flown to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of cuts and scrapes.

Railroad traffic was halted in the area until the wreckage was cleared from the tracks.

Update 4:35 p.m.

Emergency personnel responded Thursday afternoon to a vehicle that ran off Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County and ended up on the railroad tracks.

The vehicle was southbound on Highway 101 — near Vista Point, north of Refugio State Beach along the Gaviota Coast — at a high rate of speed when it crashed at about 1 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

The four-door silver sedan, which was reported traveling in excess of 100 mph prior to the crash, struck a utility pole, bringing down power lines before coming to rest on the railroad tracks, according to Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Santa Barbara County firefighters who arrived on scene found the vehicle empty, and began a search of the surrounding area for possible victims, Zaniboni said, adding that the search also involved personnel from the CHP, the county Sheriff’s Department and State Parks.

A helicopter was called in to assist with the search, and eventually located the female driver, who had sustained minor injuries, on the beach about half a mile north of the crash site, Zaniboni said.

Because of wet and slippery conditions on the 100-foot cliff above the beach, the helicopter was used to hoist the woman to safety.

Railroad traffic was halted in the area until the wreckage was cleared from the tracks.

Original story:

Emergency personnel responded Thursday to a vehicle that ran off Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County and ended up on the railroad tracks.

The vehicle was southbound on Highway 101 along the Gaviota Coast — near Vista Point, north of Refugio State Beach — at a high rate of speed when it crashed at about 1 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

The vehicle, which was reportedly traveling more than 100 mph prior to the crash, struck a utility pole, bringing down power lines, before coming to rest on the railroad tracks, the CHP said.

Santa Barbara County firefighters who arrived on scene were unable to find any occupants of the vehicle and began a search of the surrounding area, according to emergency radio traffic.

They requested a helicopter and K-9 unit to assist in the search.

Railroad traffic was halted in the area.

Additional details were not immediately available.

Noozhawk is a Santa Barbara-based news website. Executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at tbolton@noozhawk.com.

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