Six people were injured Saturday evening and one driver was subsequently arrested as a result of a three-vehicle crash that closed Highway 154, leaving tow trucks stuck in traffic as they headed to the scene to clear away the debris.
The Buellton Area Office of the California Highway Patrol received a call just after 7:10 p.m. reporting a multi-vehicle collision with injuries on Highway 154 just east of the entrance to Cachuma Lake Recreation Area.
Arriving at the scene, officers found two vehicles that had smashed head-on into each other and a third vehicle that struck the resulting wreckage, CHP Sgt. T. Pontes said.
A preliminary investigation indicated a 2008 BMW driven by 44-year-old Javier Antunez of Goleta was being driven eastbound when it was struck head-on by a westbound 2009 Toyota Tacoma being driven by 43-year-old Enrique Calderon-Mendez of Santa Barbara, Pontes said.
The two vehicles collided in the eastbound lane, leaving wreckage across both lanes that resulted in the 28-year-old driver of a westbound 2017 Jeep being unable to avoid the debris and crashing her SUV into the rear of the Toyota Tacoma.
Antunez and his passenger, 45-year-old Esther Emiko Trejo of Santa Barbara, both suffered major injuries and were taken by ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment, Pontes said.
Calderon-Mendez suffered minor injuries and was transported by ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, but one of his passengers, Judith Hall, 43, of Santa Barbara, suffered major injuries and was taken by CalSTAR helicopter to the same hospital for treatment.
Two other passengers in the Tacoma — Dolores Gutierrez, 60, and Evelia Dominguez, 48, both of Santa Barbara — suffered moderate injuries and were also taken by ambulance to Cottage Hospital, Pontes said.
The Jeep driver, identified only as Ms. Blackwell of Santa Barbara, was evaluated at the scene, did not require further treatment and was released.
Although the cause of the head-on collision is still under investigation, Pontes said preliminary information indicated alcohol was a factor.
As a result, Antunez was evaluated for impairment and subsequently arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injury.
Traffic that backed up in both directions from the crash site delayed the arrival of tow trucks to haul away the wreckage, so the highway wasn’t reopened until almost three hours after the crash.
Pontes asked anyone with information about the crash to call Officer K. Taulbee at the Buellton Area Office of the CHP at 805-688-5551.