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Woman on life support from Nipomo celebrated as ‘beautiful free spirit’

Tricia Jensen with her three children.
Tricia Jensen with her three children.

Tricia Jensen was a once-in-a-lifetime friend. That’s how Thomas Binnebose describes her.

Binnebose met Tricia 20 years ago, when they were both working at a call center in Santa Maria. Jensen started working there when she was 17, just after she graduated from Arroyo Grande High School, and Binnebose was training her. The pair immediately clicked and became close friends, going on road trips and dancing on Wednesday nights at The Graduate in San Luis Obispo.

“She was my best friend,” Binnebose said. “The thing about Tricia, no matter who you were, you always felt like her best friend. She just has that way of embracing and engaging people to where everybody felt like the most special person in her life.”

Early Monday morning, Jensen and Leann Stauffer were passengers in a 2016 Lexus traveling north on Highway 135 near Lakeview Road in Orcutt when the vehicle crashed. Stauffer, 37, of Santa Maria, was pronounced dead at the scene. Jensen, 37, was flown to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in critical condition. As of Thursday afternoon, Jensen remained on life support, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Charles Hoops said.

The driver, 25-year-old Cameron Oliver of Santa Maria, was believed to be under the influence of alcohol and was arrested, CHP said. He posted $100,000 bail on Tuesday, and a bail hearing is scheduled for March 8 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

On her Facebook page, Stauffer listed that she was in a relationship with Oliver.

Binnebose described Jensen, a Nipomo native who lives in the Santa Maria area, as married and a devoted mother of three children ages 6, 8 and 12. She coached her son’s Little League baseball team and was involved with her daughter’s cheerleading. But even if her daughter had wanted to play football, Binnebose said, “she would have encouraged her to play football. She was supportive of whatever the kids wanted to do.”

“It truly was fascinating to see her grow from a teenage girl into a mother of three kids,” he said. “How she fought tooth and nail — she would do whatever it took to get those kids what they needed.”

Jensen also loved to exercise and was active in the CrossFit community. She regularly ran half marathons and 5Ks, Binnebose said.

“She literally was like the Energizer Bunny,” he said. “She was always active and always on the go.”

Jensen also owns Green at Heart Cleaning, a house cleaning company.

“She was fighting to get that going, making sure she was bringing in money to provide for those kids and sustain a household for them,” Binnebose said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help support Jensen’s children.

“Tricia has always been a beautiful free spirit, always willing to help anyone in their time of need,” read a post on the GoFundMe page. As of 7 p.m. Thursday, the page had raised $13,365 of a $20,000 goal.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up for Stauffer’s family and has raised $8,285 toward the $15,000 goal as of Thursday evening.

That page remembers Stauffer as “a wonderful mother, daughter, sister, and friend from this earth.

“Leann Stauffer has influenced so many of our lives. She had the best laugh, was fearless, and she was positive regardless of what was going down in her life. She impressed us with her strength, the love she has for her two daughters, and that totally gorgeous smile!”

Stauffer is survived by two daughters.

The Dylan Ortega Band will be hosting a tribute concert to celebrate the lives of Jensen and Stauffer on March 3 at the Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton. Admission is free.

Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab in Orcutt is holding a fundraising night next Thursday for the Jensen family. According to a Facebook post, 15 percent of sales will be donated. The fundraiser is being put on by the Alice Shaw Elementary School PTA. The elementary school is also collecting gift cards to give to Jensen’s children. Gift cards can be dropped off at the school or mailed to Corey Triplett, P.O. Box 2453, Orcutt, CA 93457.

Ricky’s House of Pizza in Orcutt will hold a fundraiser Wednesday, when a portion of the evening’s sales will be donated to Stauffer’s family.

Janene Scully of Noozhawk.com contributed to this report.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF

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