Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

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Update by Santa Barbara County District Attorney
November 17, 2021

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced today that a felony complaint has been filed against Jose Fermin Lopez, 24, of Santa Barbara.  The charges stem from a collision on November 14, 2021 on Carrillo Street near Miramonte Drive, in Santa Barbara that resulted in the death of Steven Carlson.  Lopez was the driver and sole occupant of a 2009 Nissan Altima that swerved out of its lane and into oncoming traffic striking a 1992 Mercedes-Benz driven by Carlson.

Mr. Lopez is charged with the following felony counts: one count of murder in violation of Penal Code section 187(a), one count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in violation of Penal Code section 191.5(a), one count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, in violation of Vehicle Code section 23153(a), and one count of driving with a .08% or higher blood alcohol content causing injury, in violation of Vehicle Code section 23153(b).  Additionally, it is further alleged that Mr. Lopez personally inflicted great bodily injury within the meaning of Penal Code section 12022.7(a).

Mr. Lopez was arraigned today, November 17, 2021, from the hospital, where he is recovering from the injuries he sustained in the collision.   Mr. Lopez did not enter a plea, and the arraignment was continued to November 22, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 8 of the Santa Barbara Superior Court.  Bail has been set at $2,000,000.

Update by Santa Barbara Police Department
November 17, 2021

The Santa Barbara Police Department has identified the driver that died in the November 14, 2021, fatal traffic collision as 71-year-old, Steven Doyle Carlson.
This case is still under investigation.


Update by Santa Barbara Police Department
November 15, 2021

On November 14, 2021, around 8:20pm, the Santa Barbara Police Department Combined Communications Center received numerous reports of a serious traffic collision that had just occurred in the area of West Carrillo Street and Miramonte Drive. Callers stated two vehicles had been involved in a head-on collision and it appeared both drivers sustained extensive injuries from the crash.
Multiple officers, firefighters, and paramedics responded to the collision. Upon arrival, officers located a chaotic scene. The initial investigation showed two vehicles had collided head-on, and the only occupants in each of the vehicles were the drivers. Both the drivers needed to be extricated by the Santa Barbara City Fire Department and both were transported by ambulance to Cottage Hospital Emergency Room for medical treatment.
It appears a red Nissan sedan, driven by Jose Fermin Lopez Jr., was traveling west on West Carrillo Street at a high rate of speed and without headlights on. It is believed Lopez’s vehicle drifted into the lane of oncoming traffic. An older model Mercedes sedan was driving east on West Carrillo Street at that time. Lopez’s vehicle collided head-on with the Mercedes. Lopez Jr. is a 24-year-old Santa Barbara resident.
The driver of the Mercedes was treated at the hospital but tragically succumbed to injuries sustained in the collision and was pronounced dead several hours after the collision occurred.
Officers believed Lopez was under the influence of alcohol and a DUI investigation was completed.  Search and arrest warrants were approved by a Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge and Lopez was placed under arrest. He is suspected of being at fault for the collision.
Lopez Jr. is being charged with felony DUI Causing Death and felony Vehicular Manslaughter. Once released from the hospital, Lopez will be booked in Santa Barbara County Jail.
The Critical Accident Reconstruction Team responded to investigate the collision further. This case is currently under investigation and the name of the decedent is being withheld pending notification of family.

By Scanner Andrew
8:25 p.m., November 14, 2021

A head-on traffic collision occurred on Carrillo near Miramonte with two drivers injured.

Video by Scanner Andrew

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ScannerAndrew Nov 15, 2021 02:09 AM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

I was just about to leave my house when I heard a loud bang in the distance followed by a steady car horn. I immediately jumped in my car knowing it was an accident and quickly drove to the scene. I arrived and saw two vehicles that collided head on with both drivers sustaining bad injuries. I then heard people yelling "Fire," and I started to see flames in the engine compartment. I quickly ran back to my car to get a fire extinguisher, and I doused the flames before it could spread and engulf the vehicle. At the time I was extinguishing the fire, other good samaritans were extricating the driver out of the vehicle. The other driver in the other vehicle was still trapped inside, and I'm glad to have put the fire out before it spread to that vehicle. I'm grateful that I had a fire extinguisher in my vehicle, and for the people that helped the drivers. This was definitely one of the worst accidents I have ever been to. I was pretty shaken up afterwards. I wish the drivers well.

a-1636995141 Nov 15, 2021 08:52 AM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

Has anyone else noticed other drivers are playing chicken on the roadways recently? They drive in the middle of the road until you pull off the road - even when there is plenty of room for both cars to pass. Is this some sort of latest sick internet meme scheme?

earlobrien Nov 15, 2021 11:30 AM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

Thank you Andrew and others for your heroic rescue efforts. In the interest of the families involved, I’d like to request that you do not post any videos of the victims. The driver of the white car passed away this morning. Those images will haunt the family and add to the heartbreak.

Transparent Nov 15, 2021 04:35 PM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

This is horrible. My heart goes out to the family and friends of the deceased.

We need better traffic enforcement in our beautiful Santa Barbara. Not that one can ever know whether any particular incident would be prevented, but it's certain that enforcement leads to (all in all) fewer incidents and reduces the idiotic driving decisions we see every day.

Pansygal Nov 16, 2021 06:16 PM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

I know that stretch of road very well. I am sickened by the actions of that drunk driver, and am so sad for the innocent victim who died. I hope the drunk gets a VERY long prison term, preferably a lifetime one. There has to be strong justice for someone who drives so recklessly, drunk, and takes someone’s life.

SBTownie Nov 17, 2021 09:30 AM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

Crazily DUI covictions rarely amount in severe or longterm penalties. I just do not understand it. I remember when I was in high school here some crazy pilled out Montecito lady killed a UPS driver on Coast Village. His daughters went to my school. I believe she got a few years of probation. It's absolutely demented. I don't understand why DUIs do not confer automatic permanent loss of a drivers license at a minimum (I think this only happens on your third DUI) and MUCH longer prison sentences.

Ahchooo Nov 18, 2021 07:19 AM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

People continue to drive without licenses, so it isn’t an especially effective sanction. Plus, some claim they can’t get to work without a car, so “the law” is reluctant to impose that restriction. —- Of course their victims can’t get to work at all, being dead and everything.

Henry Sarria Nov 17, 2021 04:37 AM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

Another fatality DUI incident, just about 3-4 weeks after the 1 that happened on Cathedral Oaks that left 2 innocent people dead. Sorry to be the reminder of doom here, but damn, we got us a problem.
Cops can't be everywhere @ the same time, but there's gotta be a study that shows where the most DUI incidents occur & that's where patrolling/enforcement needs to happen to save lives.
Like I said in the Cathedral Oaks incident, you can stick all the engineering controls you want in place, drunk drivers ain't gonna care, they still gonna drive drunk.
Hell, the fact this guy was driving @ night w/ no headlights on should kind of be an indicator that drunk drivers don't care about traffic laws or controls.
I don't think more laws are needed, I just think enforcement of the current laws needs to happen & beefin' up patrols on "problem zones" would be a good start.

SBSand Nov 18, 2021 10:08 AM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

Agree and also, people need to step up and step into the way of drunk drivers that are heading for their cars. So often people leave parties, bars and restaurants after having too much to drink and people who are around them and aware of it do nothing to stop them. People need to pay attention, don't let the drunk get into their car!! As a society we need to do more, all of us.

PitMix Nov 17, 2021 03:23 PM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

How about we put speed sensors with cameras on these roads. But you don't get a ticket- they just tell your insurance company that you were speeding, so your insurance goes up. I bet if they did that, people would slow down, if it hurt them in their pocketbook.
but I am a pretty slow driver in general so maybe the speeders would all be totally against this.

yin yang Nov 17, 2021 10:06 PM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

Andrew, I'm thinking of you, hope you're okay. I'm not the only one.
Same goes for all who witnessed this, those pictured on the side of the road, and all survivors. ALL of them, the perpetrator's family are suffering as badly.
Peace out, take care of yourself and others.

yin yang Nov 17, 2021 10:09 PM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

"Infrastructure bill says anti–drunk driving technology must be built into new cars. But what that actually means is unclear"

michellecando Nov 18, 2021 07:57 PM
Driver Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Head-on Traffic Collision

It might help to lower the speed limit as well. 40 mph is pretty high for an undivided and curving, hilly road with several cross streets. 30mph seems more appropriate, would definitely be safer, and quieter for all the neighbors who live along this speedway corridor. Drivers are always gunning up and down that hill as if their life depended on getting to their destination 10 seconds sooner. Makes it completely undesirable for pedestrians and cyclists. Chill out and slow down SB!

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