Driver in fatal crash arrested in hospital bed

Priscilla Susman - CHP Mugshot

SANTA BARBARA — While hospitalized in critical condition at Cottage Hospital Friday, a 54-year-old Santa Barbara woman was charged with felony DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter for her role in a deadly three-car collision on Sept. 15.

At approximately 8 p.m. that Wednesday night, authorities believe Priscilla Susman sparked the crash that killed Liesel Ryden, 73, of nearby Solvang and seriously injured two others.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Officer Mike Muell said that the accident was caused by “a series of sideswipes and erratic driving” on the part of Susman, who was observed by other motorists as making an illegal U-turn just west of Cold Springs Bridge near Lake Cachuma before heading westward toward Santa Barbara.

“Witnesses saw her cross the double yellow line,” Muell said.

Susman’s 1996 Pathfinder then struck the vehicle in front of her, sending 24-year-old Syrena Hernandez of Oxnard spinning across lanes and into the path of three oncoming vehicles, including a 2005 Toyota driving by Linda Gaytan, 53, of Santa Ynez, and a 2007 BMW driven by Jay Fortman of Santa Barbara. Susman’s vehicle then collided with a tree before coming to a stop, inflicting serious injuries.

Liesel "Lisa" Ryden (1937 - 2011)

CHP investigators determined that Ryden, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was not wearing a seat belt.


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