Santa Barbara man charged in June 2020 gross vehicular manslaughter death of Nipomo pharmacist

·3 min read

Mar. 24—A Santa Barbara man was charged last week with gross vehicular manslaughter in a head-on collision that killed a Nipomo pharmacist along Highway 154 in June 2020.

Oscar Pereyra, 61, is facing the felony more than nine months after Michael Kai Liu, 31, of Arroyo Grande died in the crash.

The collision also resulted in an enhancement for Pereyra, who is suspected of using his vehicle as a deadly weapon to commit the felony, according to Santa Barbara County Superior Court records.

During his hearing on March 15, the judge scheduled an arraignment for Pereyra on June 18 at Superior Court in Santa Barbara. An attorney has yet to be listed for Pereyra.

The collision occurred shortly after 10:30 a.m. on June 5, when a 2000 Toyota Tacoma driven by Pereyra veered into the path of and collided with Liu's 2009 Hyundai Sonata near East Camino Cielo, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Liu, who worked at the CVS in Nipomo, was traveling to a part-time job in Santa Barbara before the collision, according to his wife, Lin Lin. He died at the scene.

Pereyra, who sustained major injuries, was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. He was not booked into County Jail but, instead, received a citation for second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence, according to court records. A booking photo was not available.

Pereyra is also facing a lawsuit filed in Superior Court earlier this year by plaintiffs that include Lin, 32, and Levi Liu, Liu's toddler son.

He faces three counts including negligence, gross negligence and negligence per se in violation of state vehicle code 22350, or driving too fast for conditions.

In addition, Caltrans is listed as a defendant and was included after the agency rejected Lin's claim for damages on Dec. 28, 2020, according to the lawsuit filed on Jan. 20.

Caltrans is accused of creating a dangerous condition of public property that contributed to the collision due to inadequate traffic-control devices that created "a hidden trap for unsuspecting motorists" along Highway 154, which was referred to "blood alley," according to the lawsuit.

Jim Shivers, the spokesman for Caltrans District 5, declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing pending litigation. Kelly Weil, attorney for the plaintiffs, did not return a call seeking comment.

Highway 154, which is also known as San Marcos Pass Road, is a 32-mile stretch of road that runs through the Santa Ynez Valley to Santa Barbara and is officially designated a state scenic highway.

"The roadway includes mountainous as well as level areas and is variously a four-lane roadway interrupted by numerous curves," according to the lawsuit. "The more gradual curves contain two lanes in each direction creating a trap for motorists who have been lulled into maintaining speed."

The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages greater than $25,000, including punitive damages "sufficient to punish and deter defendant Oscar Pereyra," attorney's fees and a jury trial, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is scheduled for a case management conference at 8:30 a.m. May 25 at Superior Court in Santa Barbara.

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