Woman gets probation in crash that killed firefighter

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Natasia Wood

EL CAJON, Calif. — A woman who caused a head-on crash in Campo that killed a U.S. Forest Service firefighter on his motorcycle was sentenced to probation and community service Friday.

Natasia Wood, 22, pleaded guilty last month to a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter in the death of 37-year-old Darin Steffey. The crash happened on a curvy portion of Buckman Springs Road around 6:15 p.m. on Oct. 3, 2013.

Wood faced up to six years in prison, but the judge sentenced her to three years probation. In add, she must serve 24 hours in jail on the anniversary of the accident.

California Highway Patrol Officer Benjamin Montgomery testified at a preliminary hearing in March that Wood was driving her roommate’s Dodge Durango SUV southbound on the two-lane road when she lost control on a sharp left turn and veered into the northbound lanes.

When the SUV entered the northbound lane it collided with Steffey, who was riding a Yamaha 600 motorcycle.

Montgomery testified that when he arrived on scene, Wood, who was uninjured in the crash, told him that she was driving 77 mph just before the crash occurred. The speed limit on Buckman Springs Road is 55 mph, and a sign just before the turn where Wood lost control and the crash happened warns drivers to slow down to 40 mph.

Steffey, who had just finished a shift at the Glen Cliff Fire Station, was heading into Campo to check his mail at a post office box and eat dinner, according to family members. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

21 comments

  • Musicman

    I think many are missing the big picture here. She was just driving (SOBER) like the rest of us and was at fault in a traffic collision where someone died. That happens a lot more often than we think and very rarely are criminal charges filed much less is there ever a conviction. She plead guilty avoiding a costly trial though at the same time giving up any hope of being found innocent. Probation is a fair sentence in this case. No amount of punishment will bring back the deceased man so let’s not destroy two lives where we don’t need to.

    • Ally

      But she CHOSE to drive 37 mph over the recommended speed. She had a history of reckless driving and had posted on social media about speeding and not caring about it or other people. Apparently if it okay to choose to be reckless and kill someone with little reprocussions. Yes it was a tragic accident, but it could have been easily prevented had she been mature and responsible when getting behind the wheel of a car. And she didn’t spare the courts time and money, she asked for numerous extensions and plead not guilty, icky changing her plea later after a private investigator told her there was no she would be found not guilty.

      • Musicman

        According to the court testimony it was only 22 miles over the speed limit, not 37. And in almost every traffic collision that has ever occurred in the past or will occur in the future, speed will play a factor. I am not sure where you are getting this idea that she had a history of reckless driving. She didn’t have any recorded history per the court testimony. Every accident could have been avoided but the key is it was an accident. She did not get up in the morning and decide to willfully kill someone that day. Obviously you don’t know how courts work. Asking for a continuance is routine and part of how the wheel of justice spins. It doesn’t cost any significant amount of money until a jury is seated. But pleading guilty a jury never had to be formed. I am not saying that what she was a part of is OK or insignificant. What I am saying is that the punishment fits this set of circumstances and would fit an identical set of circumstances with two different people all day long. That doesn’t minimize the importance that man meant to so many but justice must be free from emotional bias.

        • Ash

          No “orange is the new black’ for her it would appear. Unless there are repercussions for one’s actions then behaviour never improves.

    • joe schmoe

      She was speeding! Caused an accident !
      Innocent man was killed!
      She only get probation?!!

      Wow!!! The judicial system is corupt!

  • MsStanley

    She was speeding and killed an innocent man and all she gets is a hand slap? The world truly is going to h#ll in a handbag!!!

  • Erin

    I would encourage anyone who is appalled by this sentence to respectfully write to Judge Laura W. Halgren and let her know how you feel. Nothing will ever change if people do not speak up and take action. Judge Halgren is in department 11 at the East County Regional Center. The address is 250 East Main Street El Cajon, CA 92020.

  • JUSTICEFORDARIN

    MUSICMAN Don’t make judgments if you don’t know the facts….There is evidence all over her social media sharing her reckless behavior and her being proud of it

  • Thor

    So nobody making comments on here has ever driven faster then posted speed limits. This could pmhappen to anybody even if you are driving the recommended speed.

    • erin

      she was not “just speeding” she was going so fast that she couldn’t even stay in her own lane. her crossing over into darin’s lane at a high rate of speed is what killed him. if she had been able to stay in control of her vehicle this never would have happened.

    • erin

      i agree gary. just one day in jail on the first anniversary date? darin’s family and friends will painfully reflect on that date for many, many years to come – not just the first year after it happened.

  • Ashley K

    It said in the article that the speed limit on the portion of the road she was on when the accident occurred was down to 40 MPH (probably because of the curve) which means she was driving 37 miles over the posted speed limit. She doesn’t get brownie points for being sober and not intentionally killing someone. At those speeds, its not JUST speeding, she was driving recklessly and someone died as a direct result of her decision to do so. She was a danger to herself and every other person on the road with her. If she were drunk and driving or texting and driving there wouldn’t be people dismissing it as “it could happen to any one.” Driving almost twice the legal speed, I would argue, shouldn’t happen, period. That’s like going 50 mph in a school zone or going 120 mph on the highway in California. I would think if someone were to do those things and cause in accident which killed someone, there should be more than one day in jail. One day in jail and three years probation doesn’t cover it in my opinion. Someone lost their life, because she couldn’t bother to slow down and drive responsibly. I think some serious jail time is warranted here, definitely more than 24 hours. And at the very least, I don’t think she should be allowed to have a driver’s license.

  • Accidents Happen

    People are crazy. It was an accident. Who hasn’t speeded? Cops speed all the times and kill people. These police get no punishment. She was a naive girl. Sad that a man lost his life, but what if it were your kid? What if it were you? How would you feel for the rest of your life? Forgiveness is key

    • erin

      what if it were your child who died senselessly? you would probably want SOME accountability for that person’s actions, wouldn’t you?

      • DavidM

        There is accountability here; she was charged, pled guilty and a sentence was imposed. The idea that whenever someone dies there must be a sentence as if it was a murder is just ridiculous. Every day in this County there are dozens and dozens of sentences imposed for criminal conduct. Some egregious, some merely negligent. Putting some in prison because you feel some need for revenge is a waste of time. She killed someone; she will live with that forever. And probation means that if she screws up again she can end up in prison for not learning the lesson. It’s a just and reasonable thing to do.

  • The real 'Big Dee'

    I know it was a accident yet I wonder what would of happened if that was me in front of Laura W Halgren, I’m Hispanic, male,and not that innocent looking.I’ve never had a ticket and I’m 58 years old so I’ve been driving for years, if you think I would of just got probation you’re stupid, and I hate using that word.I hope this young women thinks real hard about the major brake she got from this lady! and hopefully she doesn’t cause another accident that kills a innocent person who was reasonable enough to not be speeding, Thanks to this incompetent person, (I’m not going to call her a judge she doesn’t deserve that title)you get off with nothing! a slap on the wrist, what a joke! What’s horribly sad is a person died, a responsible person who was following the law unlike you, chances are you will probably speed again since nothing happened, there was no consequence’s, next time you speed and murder someone hopefully you will have a judge with the morals the public deserves and justice will be served. POOR BABY, PEOPLE ARE SO MEAN, WHAT A JOKE!!! In closing I would like to tell the family of Darin Steffey that my prayers are with you’re family, May you RIP. And to Halgren “Shame on you”!, AS IF YOU CARE. Just think Halgren next time this young women speeds and someone dies it may just be one of your family members. God forbid that doesn’t happen, but it can.Something to think about ,right Laura.

  • Ron solfer

    People MUST take their driving responsibility much more serious than they currently do to avoid tragedies and subsequent travesties of justice. This serves as a great example when people minimize that privilege and drink, text , speed and generally don’t obey rules and common sense. It was an accident and the sentencing she received would have been very similar in any jurisdiction. Until laws and penalties are changed, this will continue to happen….. unfortunately to our own friends and loved ones.

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