Coroner Releases Toxicology Results in Highway 154 Deaths

Two Women Killed December 21 near Rancho San Marcos Golf Course

The two women hit and killed during a strange and tragic series of incidents on Highway 154 last month were under the influence of multiple drugs, a toxicology report shows. Though the Santa Barbara coroner’s findings were recently made public, Sheriff’s spokesperson Sgt. Mark Williams stressed in a prepared statement: “Please keep in mind that the [information] is not the official cause of death, but rather just what we found in their systems.”

The women — 54-year-old Sara Ornelas of Santa Barbara and 49-year-old Barbara Romero of Lompoc — were driving to the Chumash Casino at around 11:45 p.m. on December 21 when they pulled over to relieve themselves on the side of the road near the Rancho San Marcos Golf Course. Once they stopped, however, a small dog jumped out of the car and ran into traffic. One of the women gave chase, but both she and the dog were killed by oncoming cars. The other woman attempted to help her friend and was also fatally struck. The two were declared dead at the scene.

According to the coroner’s report, Ornelas had methadone, codeine, and morphine in her system. Romero, it said, had amphetamine, methamphetamine, methadone, and morphine in hers. The report notes that the morphine in both cases could be a product of the the women’s bodies metabolizing heroin or codeine, or it could be pharmaceutical morphine.

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