Five years to the day after a high-speed crash on Sabado Tarde Road killed four people, the victims’ family and friends will gather tonight in Isla Vista for a candlelight memorial service.
At 5:30 p.m. in Little Acorn Park, Father Jon-Stephen Hedges of St. Athanasius Orthodox Church and Rabbi Allison Conyer of UCSB Hillel will lead a brief service of prayer and song to remember the victims of the 2001 collision. UCSB students Nicholas Bourdakis and Christopher Divis, both 20, SBCC student Ruth Levy, 20, and San Francisco resident Elie Israel, 27, were killed in the crash. Albert Levy, Ruth Levy’s older brother who was critically injured in the crash but survived, will be in attendance, along with UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang and his wife, Dilling.
At the urging of the victims’ families, Hedges said the memorial will also serve to commemorate other members of the Isla Vista community who have died in recent years.
“Tony Bourdakis, [Nicholas’ father,] really took this tragedy and lifted it up in a way that really ennobles it,” Hedges said. “This memorial is more than for his family, but really for the whole community.”
Just after 11 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2001, then 18-year-old UCSB freshman David Attias drove his car at nearly 60 m.p.h. eastbound down the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde. Attias struck five people and collided with numerous parked cars before his heavily damaged 1991 black Saab came to a stop. According to court testimony, after exiting his vehicle, Attias was apprehended following a struggle with a crowd of eyewitnesses.
Four of the victims died at the scene. The fifth person, Albert Levy, who was visiting his sister in Isla Vista at the time of the crash, suffered serious injuries, but survived. He has since undergone numerous reconstructive surgeries, including bone and muscle transplants and skin grafts.
In June 2002, a Santa Barbara jury convicted Attias on four counts of second-degree murder, but acquitted him of causing great bodily injury to Albert Levy while under the influence of marijuana. In addition, according to police reports, officials did not find alcohol in Attias’ blood at the time of the accident.
A week after the guilty verdicts, the same jury determined that Attias was insane at the time of the incident. He is currently housed at Patton State Hospital, a mental hospital located in San Bernardino, Calif.
Little Acorn Park, located at the corner of El Embarcadero and Sabado Tarde Roads, is home to a small memorial to Divis, Levy, Israel and Bourdakis. Another memorial plaque is located on the wall of 6568 Sabado Tarde, adjacent to the location where the crash took place.
In the days following the 2001 accident, a vigil for the victims drew an estimated 5,000 people to Storke Plaza.
Hedges said he thinks it is important for local residents to remember the victims of the crash, even though most UCSB students who were here five years ago have graduated and left I.V. by now.
“As we begin to think of all those folks [who have died] – to me that’s not ghoulish or depressing,” Hedges said. “That’s part of the community we’re part of.”