Photo: scene of the accident
December 28, 2021 – Santa Barbara, Ca.
With the U.S. 101 freeway under lane restrictions and major construction from Santa Barbarato Ventura, that stretch of roadway has seen more than its fair share of vehicular mayhem over the past year.
One such incident appeared to have been the single-vehicle crash in the southbound lanes in Summerland on December 7, 2021 when a full-size pickup truck carrying five people crashed through a construction warning sign, exited the freeway on the right lane shoulder, and then plummeted down a step embankment as it rolled over several times before coming to rest
alongside the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
According to California Highway Patrol Officer Jonathan Gutierrez, emergency medical teams responded to the scene and transported the driver—identified as 50-year-old Santa Maria resident Christina Watanabe—and four passengers, including a 79-year-old woman and three juveniles, to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Once the wreck was cleared off the railroad right of way and the massive freeway backup was alleviated, the CHP began their usual investigation.
That investigation soon revealed evidence that led to the arrest of Watanabe who, according to Santa Barbara County Deputy District Attorney Sarah Barkley, “intentionally drove off the roadway” and caused the accident. On December 16th, Watanabe was transported to Santa Barbara County Jail, where she was booked on chargers of assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse likely to cause serious injury or death, and three counts of felony child abuse likely to cause serious injury or death. She remains in custody, with her bail set at $2,000,000.
Photo: Courtesy California Highway Patrol