Triple Fatal Highway 154 Collision Sparks Fire, Shuts Down Roadway

Triple fatal collision on Highway 154 (Photos: Mike Eliason / SBCFD)
The latest update on this story and the victim’s identities can be viewed here.

Update by edhat staff
7:00 a.m., October 26, 2019
​Highway 154 was reopened at 1:00 a.m. Saturday. 

Update by edhat staff

6:00 p.m., October 25, 2019
Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesperson Mike Eliason has confirmed three people have died in the vehicle collision.
The initial investigation reveals the male driver of a black Camaro traveling westbound crossed over the double yellow lines and hit a Chevy Volt traveling eastbound where the two vehicles spun out and rested on the shoulder. A Denali SUV traveling behind the Volt also collided with the two vehicles, said Eliason. 
Three people inside the Volt were confirmed dead on arrival, a woman and two children. The male driver of the Camaro was extricated and transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital by a CalStar helicopter with life-threatening injuries. 
The collision caused the Denali and Volt to catch fire which spread to nearby brush. The Camaro came to rest on the Cold Spring Bridge. Firefighters from the Los Padres National Forest Service responded to the scene and were able to quickly jump on the fire due to low winds, said Eliason. 
The fire is under control and crews are on scene mopping up. Highway 154 is currently closed. The cause of the collision is under investigation. 
Photo: Mike Eliason / SBCFD
[Editor’s Note: Initial reports from firefighters on the scene identified the Chevy Volt as a Toyota Prius]

Update by edhat staff

5:15 p.m., October 25, 2019

Caltrans has shut down Highway 154 near Cold Spring Bridge due to a brush fire that started from a fatal vehicle collision.

Santa Barbara County firefighters are on the scene with crews for the Los Padres National Forest.

The initial vehicle collision caused two critical injuries and required extrication. California Highway Patrol is now reporting two fatalities.

Edhat will update this article with more information as it becomes available. 

Photo by an edhat reader

Reported by Roger the Scanner Guy

4:51 p.m., October 25, 2019

Vehicle collision and fire on Highway 154 at Cold Springs Bridge.


Written by Roger

What do you think?


8 Comments deleted by Administrator

Leave a Review or Comment


  1. I tried to warn everyone after I turned around on 154 and old san marcos pass with flashing lights and a signal to turn around including bicyclist. Amazing how many people just ignored me like motorcyclists. I’m trying to help!

  2. It is rather disconcerting as a woman that people would ignore flashing lights or me waving out the window. I could be a kidnapping victim or warning of a bicyclist down on the road in the corners of old san marcos pass.

  3. Horrible news about the fatalities. Please drive the speed limit, and pay attention on that road. Who knows how that accident happened, but it could have been averted if people were driving the speed limit and not allowing themselves to be distracted.

  4. Hope he had a grand old time driving that dumb Camaro with the racing flag emblem on the hood, because it’s the last he will have. With life-threatening injuries, he is probably in surgery right now and when he awakes, a lifelong nightmare will begin. Not even close to the horror the family of this mother and children must be experiencing. My heart just weeps for them. Can we make 154 a toll road, get it OFF the GPS system, put up regular traffic lights, close it after Stagecoach so it is no longer a thoroughfare to the SYV, get daily patrol – SOMETHING?

  5. Pray for what? A mother and her children are dead because of some reckless psycho. What is there to be kind about? And what should we pray for? That they come back from the dead? ENOUGH with the “be nice” and “pray” crap.

  6. We need a damn DOVIDER between the lanes at least in the hotspots and an emergency reduction of speed to 45mph for the entire pass. I’ve done the math it’ll add 2minutes to the ride. It’s an accident per week and Our leaders are failing us by not tami g action already.
    Does anyone want to create a community group to demand action on this once and for all? I’m a lawyer and I drive over that pass weekly with my family and I’m sick of fearing we might get killed. At least with a divider and speed reduction it’ll cut deaths by 90%.

  7. I want to set up a committee of people to demand our local leaders SUE the state of California demeaning and emergency reduction in the speed limit and the installation of a safety divider for the entire pass.
    We pay a fortune to law enforcement and repairing roads and dealing with the bodies and injuries mangled people and dead children in our community and it’s all because our stupid state is too busy making outrageous laws.
    If we can have sanctuary city laws why can’t our county override the state’s choice of highway speeds in the interest of public safety? Their safety study has been proven 100% WRONG. Does anyone know whether it is our county supervisors we need to approach? There are many more people dying on the 154 than from school shootings etc. It should be a top priority. An innocent MOTHER and her 2 CHILDREN were reckless killed tonight. A fire started that could’ve spread to hundreds of acres of the winds were higher. The one thing the county or cal trans did right was mow down all the brush there the past few months.
    Please let’s get a group of people and change this. It’s a public safety and economic no brainer.

  8. A divider will make things worse. It will prevent more head-on accidents, yes. But it will also dramatically increase the number of accidents in general – couple that with the tailgaters who remove the buffer and don’t have time to react to an accident in front of them? Disaster. Dividers leave zero room for error, once contacted, the average driver IS going to lose control. Not a good idea.

  9. Pray for the loved ones left behind on Earth! That they can find a way to live on and keep Faith and Hope in their hearts until then. Even the Driver’s family and friends need prayers to get through this. The driver could still die too.

  10. I know people have not been keen on this idea when I’ve commented in the past, but the only way we’re getting 154 off GPS as a recommended route is to make it longer than the 101 alternative. Officials can add a couple of lights or stop signs to make this happen easily and cheaply.

  11. Bird YES! I’ve written my local attorney and I’m an attorney. I’m fed up.we can change this as a community. It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. Nobody will be delayed by more than 2mins if the speed over the pass is reduced to 45 and let’s do an emergency reduction.
    I have Dash cam footage of a motorcycle passing me on the shoulder coming down the south pass and then passing Two cars ahead of me on the double yellow With a divider this can’t happen.
    We should name this movement in honor of the poor family who lost a mother and 2 children tonight and we should do it right away. Great point about the upcoming election. I’m willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars towards legal bills to help make this happen but even more important is we all need to get off our butts (speaking for myself) and join forces to make this Vital change.

  12. 924 at 65mph you’re right but I’ve driven on similar roads in Tuscany Italy and they all had dividers and it made me think of the 154. Always have. you might be right but we need to do something and we need to reduce the speed immediately to 45. So when they exceed that by 10 they’re going 55 not 65… and that’s non-negotiable. Speed kills. When USA cut national speed limit to 55 in the 1970’s for fuel savings the unintended benefit was a drastic reduction in highway deaths. Please join in this movement. You sound thoughtful.

  13. 924. Exactly we don’t need symbolic actions we need immediate speed reduction to 45mph. Try for a year and see what happens. What we have now is a basket case and we are paying the price for the state simply not solving the problem with their 30’ long turnouts and signs nobody can read at the prevailing speed of 65.

  14. For those who are downvoting this suggestion let me guess it’s because you don’t want a “nanny state” to slow you down over the pass by 10mph. Let me do the math for you and you tell me if it’s worth X amount of time longer to avoid these regularly occurring tragedies.
    It is almost exactly 10 miles from the start of the 154 to the end of the pass by rancho San Marcos golf course. What’s the difference in travel time for 45mph vs 55mph?
    time = distance/rate

    t = 10 miles/55 mph = .18 of an hr = (.18)(60 min) = 10.8minutes so it takes just about 11 minutes at the legal speed limit currently.
    t = 10 miles/45 mph = .22 of an hr = (.22)(60min)= 13.2 minutes
    13.2 (the 45mph time) 10.8 (the 55mph time) = a difference of 2.4 minutes, 144 seconds.
    Knowing this might make it less frustrating when you’re behind a truck going 45 and you can tell yourself ”worst case it’ll only add 2.4 minutes to my drive.” Will it save lives- absolutely. Will it safe highway shutdowns for accident investigations and cleanup and possibly fires that take many hours and sometimes days of shutting the road each year? Absolutely.

  15. Interesting idea 727. Lowering the speed limit for the pass will slow the route by 2.4 minutes which should help but I’ve heard that google can actually be approached about this and that is something I hope we can all ask out county supervisors to do on our behalf. LA drivers come off the 101 going 75-80 and then decide to blast over the pass. Please join our movement to demand action from our supervisors. It’s time they DO SOMETHING now.

  16. I’m for lowering the speed limit, dividers, signs and any other suggestion that might work. MEANWHILE, call and write Monique Limon and Hannah Beth Jackson and demand that the CHP add officers to drive the pass 24/7, ticketing speeders, drivers distracted by phones or other things. This must be addressed!

  17. Toll …. maybe not. Heavy fine for speed violators. The key is to change the driving behavior. If $500 per serious violations doesn’t do it, double that for the next offense, the tripe … until the behavior change or license suspended. Toll isn’t going to do that.

  18. It says the trans-am, a heavy and fast five liter car, was traveling west across the cold-springs bridge at 5:23 PM so that likely would also have to mean the sun was in his eyes or certainly in his face. Blinded, he lost track of his lane and bamo. Or he just fell asleep or was drunk. There’s no indication he was passing or speeding although either are possible. A real tragedy for everyone.
    I’d say why not place concrete barriers between all the two lane stretches so at least it keeps people apart on the tight stretches.

  19. One theme I see repeated in comments is that some drivers get frustrated by slower drivers, which causes them to pass unsafely. No. If you are frustrated, get over it. Breathe deeply, pay attention, and pass when it is safe. A slow driver does not cause your unsafe move. The slower driver should pull over when possible, but if they don’t, too bad. Chill out and live another day.

  20. I drive the pass over and back every work day – and have seen my share of crazy driving. Several times I have had to take evasive action when an oncoming car crossed over into my lane. Fortunately, I was able to recover, and there was no drama. I agree with those who suggest a physical barrier between the lanes. I would choose “Jersey Wall” (the concrete sections used for road construction projects).

  21. This story is still full of errors, Ed better check some other sources or get a proof reader. Per CHP commander it was a Chevy Volt, not a Prius, the Denali hit the Volt not the Camero and the Camero never caught on fire. Look at the photo, does that look like the Camero had been resting on the shoulder or was ever on fire. Sorry for being back so soon, but the litany of miss-information was more than I could stand.

  22. There is no point in lowering the speed limit if it isn’t enforced. I rarely see chp on my commute unless they are at either end of 154. Occassionally they set up a speed trap maybe once a year but unless it is regularly patrolled then it isn’t going to make a difference.
    I remember 30 years ago when I would see them near the bridge all the time but it became too dangerous for motorcycle chp on the pass. Also plenty of times, with buses, campers, and freight trucks – I am going 40 miles the whole way as they don’t use the pull outs or move aside in the passing areas. A lower speed limit would not have prevented this accident.

  23. What’s really changed is google and Waze send you that way even if you’re going to Paso Robles. All because it’s 5-10min faster. Our county supervisors should be able to contact google to tell the to advise drivers to stay on the 101 regardless because it’s not faster if you’re behind a truck and stop at 2 intersections etc.

  24. What a terrible accident. GPS has more than tripled the traffic on the 154 in recent years. The road is always busy these days and there are so many terrible drivers that you really do take your life into your hand every time you’re on that road. People driving 35 are a real danger as are the increased number of buses and trucks that are trying to shave a few minutes. Reducing the speed limit will not change the fact that anyone with a pulse can get a DL. There are no drivers training requirements for licensing and we no longer require or even offer driver’s training in schools. Pair in the fact that most people cant live 30 seconds without looking at their phones and its a risky situation out on the roads these days. A really sad story but reducing the speed limit will not deter speeders nor make people pay mind. Laws dont really change people’s behavior.

  25. What a tragedy. By the looks of the picture of the Camero on the bridge, the driver could have just waited just a couple hundred yards for a passing lane! There needs to be something put in place to slow this route to make the 101 a faster route.

  26. What a shame. No excuse for this sort of tragedy.
    I’m not so sure lowering the speed limit is the solution. Frustrated drivers are OBVIOUSLY on part of the problem, and you often see erratic behavior when SY Valley visitors are trolling along at 40 mph. The speed of 55 is not a problem for those that can manage it. And a few other things contribute: 1) large tractor-trailer rigs that cannot pull the 154 grade and struggle with the windy road, without running 25 mph – rigs should be banned unless there is a Paradise Road or similar destination; 2) The Chumash should actively campaign in the media and at its casino with its visitors to use the 101/ 246 enter/exit routes – reducing the number of folks who travel this daunting road and are unfamiliar; 3) median barriers should be installed immediately in those areas where passing lanes choke back down to one, reducing the likelihood of hasty, last-minute passes; 4) And lastly, let’s not just focus on speeding, the CHP should up the ante on ticketing those who have 5 or more trailing vehicles, at times we see as many as 30 vehicles behind – and with the ticket for not pulling over, they should kindly advise the drivers that there are alternate routes to the valley and if you cannot abide and pull over, use a freeway.
    I’m sure there will be those that yell and scream about requiring slow drivers to pull over. But the impulsive passing that is most often seen on the pass occurs when there are folks that just don’t belong on that road and they also make no effort to get out of the way when the opportunity presents.
    It’s not all about speeding, in many cases it’s about frustrating behavior of drivers. I have yet to see the CHP ever light up a slow driver who has been blocking traffic – tickets for speeding yes, plenty of those but for obstructing traffic – never.
    Let’s work all ends of this problem.

  27. Unfortunately the GPS nav systems built into cars these days directs traffic to the 154 as opposed to the 101. With the overpopulation of CA (and the world for that matter) there is just too many cars, not to mention drivers who have no experience driving on this highway. I’m all for making it a toll road. People who can prove residency get a free pass.

  28. A new experimental law enforcement patrol that combines a sheriff’s deputy with a mental health outreach worker conducted a welfare check this Saturday on a potentially suicidal 27-year-old Santa Barbara city resident who had a collection of 16 weapons, at least one of which was buried in the backyard. The Crisis Intervention Team, as it’s called, conducted a welfare check on the 27-year-old after he texted relatives a long and ominous note that they interpreted to be suicidal.
    Law enforcement reportedly received two calls of concern in response. The subject also made remarks expressing admiration for Isla Vista mass murderer Elliot Rodger, who has emerged as a poster child of sorts for the involuntary celibacy movement. The subject of the welfare check reportedly put up no resistance. At least seven law enforcement officers — from both the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and Santa Barbara Police Department — were on hand. The subject is reportedly an accomplished professional poker player and lives at home with his parents. Authorities found $44,000 in cash in his room.
    According to one of the agents involved in the action, all the guns found thus far are legally registered; some — a short gun and a long gun — appeared to have been custom made. The handguns were large caliber weapons, and at least some of the weapons had been illegally altered to make them effectively fully automatic. The weapon buried in the yard was a long rifle. The search, however, continues. The subject was taken to Cottage Hospital where a 5150 determination was made, meaning the subject posed an imminent threat to himself or others and could be held up to 72 hours against his will. To date, there’s no evidence that a crime has taken place. Because of the threatening remarks, the Santa Barbara police have executed a gun violence restraining order, meaning the guns have been seized and will be held pending a judicial determination.
    This is reportedly not the first contact law enforcement have had with the subject. More than a year ago, officers pulled him over during a traffic stop and discovered nine weapons in the car as well as body armor. There being no evidence of a crime, he was let go. The subject has not come to the attention of mental health workers before, and there’s no evidence he’s received any therapy. The Sheriff’s department started deploying the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) last September to better respond to criminal behavior linked to mental health problems.
    Initially the two members — Sheriff’s Deputy James McKarrell and Behavioral Wellness crisis worker Bradley Crable — went out on patrol together one day a week every other week. The program proved popular, and the frequency of joint patrol has increased. It went from every Wednesday, to now Wednesday to Saturday. Ongoing funding for this program remains an unresolved issue.

Suspect Suffers Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound

Burke R. Miller