By Raiza Giorgi


The California Highway Patrol Santa Barbara division is leading the investigation into the deadly crash on Highway 154 that occurred last Friday afternoon, that took the lives of a Solvang mother and her two young children. 

“We are collecting all of the evidence and working around the clock to make sure we get every detail. We are also working with the District Attorney’s office so they can make the determination of charges,” said Cindy Ponce, of the CHP. 

The head-on crash occurred around 4:45 p.m. on Friday evening near the Cold Spring Bridge on Highway 154, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. The crash involved a Chevy Camaro crashed head-on with a Chevy Volt and a GMC behind the Volt swerved to the right and collided with the Volt. 

“The 28-year-old Santa Barbara man was driving a westbound in a Chevrolet Camaro and crossed the double yellow lines “for unknown reasons” and slammed head-on into a sedan, driven by a woman with two children in the car, according to Mike Eliason of SBC Fire just after the incident. 

Vanessa Bley, 34, of Solvang was killed with her two children (pictured with husband and father Max Gleason) in a crash on Highway 154 on Friday, Oct. 25.
Photo contributed

The Volt was driven by Rebecca Vanessa Goss Bley, 34, of Solvang, who perished in the accident along with two children, who were identified as Lucienne “Lulu” Bley Gleason, 2, and Desmond Bley Gleason, 4 months, by their father Max Gleason. The Coroner’s office has yet to confirm pending DNA results.

Unconfirmed reports stated to the Star by several witnesses said they saw a suicide note in Dungan’s vehicle, however Ponce said she couldn’t confirm until the investigation was complete. 

Gleason wrote a post on his Facebook page just four days after their deaths describing his heartache and devastation.

“I felt the extinguishing of their light so profoundly, so acutely, that first night. And every day since it comes in waves – some more intense, others milder. But I am realizing the full intensity of their light now with the people that are still here,” Gleason wrote. 

“The amount of feeling in the world right now for my dead babies is unreal. People are loving and hurting all across the world. The messages keep coming in, and from people I have never even met or knew existed. Vanessa touched so many people. Her life force was so large that people are coming out of nowhere and feeling this loss,” he continued.

The post has been shared more than 1,300 times and people from around the world have commented sending their love and condolences on his loss. 

“If I can say anything to anyone at this time, it is to be in that essence. Feel it. Stop moving around. Stop all your busywork. Live in the essence. Touch the people that you love. Hold quiet space with them. Feel them. That is all we have. It is all you have right now, it is all you ever will have. That is the whole point to anything,” Gleason writes. 

The deaths have also prompted the Santa Ynez Valley community to demand the CHP step up their patrols. Several petitions have been created with more than 2,800 signatures on one asking local officials such as Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, the CHP and Caltrans to install speed monitor cameras to avoid more tragedies on Highway 154. 

“As a mother, wife, daughter I am so angry about this recent loss and I dedicate this petition to the family of beautiful Vanessa Bley and her darling angles,” said Lowri McGill, petition organizer. 

Hartmann’s office said prior to this accident they have already been working on a meeting to address concerns along Highway 154, and once a date is set they will get details to the public. 

“We have already applied for a grant to put additional CHP officers on 154,” said Jefferson Litten, Hartmann’s aide. 

Another similar petition has more than 3,000 signatures asking state officials to look into installing a barrier, rumble strips or any other measures that will help with safety. 

“Whatever is needed, whatever it takes to save lives should be a top priority of our community.  If we can slow down motorists and prevent them from crossing into oncoming traffic we can stop these preventable deaths,” wrote organizer Erin Mackey. 

The CHP stepped up enforcement along the highway and on Wednesday morning between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. they conducted 25 enforcement stops and issued 18 citations for speed. Ponce added the majority of accidents that occur are driver behavior from texting, driving under the influence, speeding and passing on double yellow lines. 

“With these tragic and senseless collisions occurring on SR-154, we will not stand idly by. We will continue with our mission of saving lives. If you travel within Buellton CHP’s 650 mile jurisdiction, be prepared to leave early and arrive alive or deal with one of our enforcement detail units,” CHP officials wrote. 

As for the driver of the Camero, identified as John Roderick Dungan, 28, of Santa Barbara, the DA’s office is working on a list of charges to be filed once the CHP wraps up their investigation. Read Noozhawk’s article on his other charges currently being prosecuted by Santa Barbara Superior Court. He is currently in critical condition after being airlifted to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. 

“If anyone was a witness to this crash we urge you to come forward and talk with our investigators,” Ponce said.

She said anyone with information to call 805-967-1234 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.