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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Singer Killed in Car Crash on Highway 101

December 12, 1998|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MUSSEL SHOALS — The 30-year-old lead singer and lyricist of the rock band Snot was killed Friday as he attempted to drive across Highway 101 in this seaside community, the third fatality along that dangerous stretch of highway in the last year.

James Lynn Strait died instantly after his 1992 Ford Tempo was broadsided by a southbound full-size pickup truck about noon, officers said. Strait's small bulldog, who was sitting in the back seat, also perished.

Pickup driver David Redderson, 20, suffered a neck injury and was treated at Saint Francis Hospital in Santa Barbara and released, a nursing supervisor said.

Redderson, a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, had been on his way to Ventura to spend the holidays with family, said his brother, who drove to the crash site about eight miles north of Ventura.

"By the time he [Redderson] went to apply the brakes, it was too late," California Highway Patrol Officer George Orozco said.

Visitors and Mussel Shoals residents gain access to northbound Highway 101 by crossing against southbound traffic. Strait, a Santa Barbara resident, was crossing the highway after visiting his girlfriend in the community.

The fatality was the second to occur Friday on the 101. About 4 a.m. on the 101 Freeway at Carmen Drive in Camarillo, Linda Harper was killed as she tried to run across the northbound lanes, Deputy Coroner James Baroni said.

Officers don't know why the 52-year-old Camarillo resident, who was a retired TWA flight attendant, was on the freeway. Her car was found parked at her home.

In the afternoon crash, Strait apparently pulled into the path of the truck, which was going about 65 mph. The impact sent Strait's car spinning into the center divider where it stopped, Orozco said.

The truck skidded sideways and overturned, coming to rest on the driver's side near the center divider. A group of passing motorists stopped and pulled Redderson from the wreckage, Ventura County Fire Capt. Michael Wickham said.

Both drivers were wearing seat belts, Orozco said. Although no evidence of drug or alcohol use was found, Chief Deputy Coroner Jim Wingate said toxicology tests would be conducted on Strait.

An autopsy was scheduled today. Funeral arrangements were pending.

Strait joined the Santa Barbara-based band Snot after playing bass in a punk band called Lethal Dose. Snot, known for its loud, hard rock sound, performed in several venues in Los Angeles and Ventura before being signed to a Geffen Records contract in June 1996. Eleven months later, the group's debut CD, "Get Some," was released.

Strait apparently divided his time between the homes of his parents, James and Marie Strait, who live in Santa Barbara and are separated, and the residences of several band members.

A family friend told officers that Strait had been planning to visit a friend in Los Angeles Friday. A backpack filled with his clothing was found in his back seat.

Debris from the wreckage littered the center divider as well as the highway, which is two lanes in each direction. One lane in each direction was closed for about four hours, causing a four-mile traffic backup both north and southbound.

The intersection where the fatal crash occurred has long been the subject of criticism by area residents who say there needs to be a reduction in speed or an overpass or offramp to better serve Mussel Shoals.

On Aug. 25, Santa Barbara Rabbi Martin Ballonoff, 51, was killed after his northbound vehicle veered into southbound lanes and was broadsided.

On Nov. 21, 1997, 78-year-old Florence Temple of Santa Barbara died when her car was struck as she attempted to cross the highway to reach the northbound lanes.

Moments earlier, Temple had left a birthday lunch with her cousin in Mussel Shoals. Temple would have turned 79 a day after the crash.

"We've read in the papers in the past that people have asked to have better access in that area, but we associate all of our accidents with driver error," Orozco said.

Freelance writer Bill Locey contributed to this story.

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