SANTA BARBARA — A Solvang man trapped in his car for 16 1/2 hours was finally found on Tuesday morning. He could have been rescued sooner but refused to contact law enforcement. Michael Crolius crashed his Toyota Prius into a ditch off Highway 154 around 4 p.m. Monday and after hours of looking for the driver, first responders called off the search only to start again first thing Tuesday. The driver, 53-year-old Crolius, is now under investigation for speeding and driving under the influence of prescription drugs. “We found one occupant who it turns out was there overnight. About 4:30 yesterday returning home from work, he went over the side and was over there all night,” explained Captain Sid Porrazzo, Santa Barbara County Fire Department.Crolius’ Prius became airborne as he traveled westbound up the 154. The vehicle went down a steep ditch close to the side of the road, but the 25 foot drop prevented any passersby from seeing him. “The party involved in the collision called his brother instead of 911 and we were getting all the information second hand,” explained California Highway Patrol Officer Christopher Terry.Crolius asked his family members not to contact law enforcement, but they did anyway. Since Crolius wasn’t sure where he was, CHP officers, county fire, and sheriff’s deputies searched for three hours along the highway Monday night but couldn’t find him. Sheriff’s Copter 3 used night vision to join in the search but was called off after an hour.”The reason we found it today is since we hadn’t found anything last night and we kept getting calls about it second hand from his brother, our sergeant had a couple units come up here again and go very slowly looking up over the side of every crevice that we had,” said Officer Terry. Prescription pill bottles were pulled from the wreckage. It turns out, the CHP arrested Crolius for driving under the influence just last week on January 16. If convicted of DUI for Monday’s crash, this will be his fourth DUI in three years. Crolius was taken to Cottage Hospital with major but non-life threatening injuries. While tow crews lifted the car out from the ditch, vehicles traveling up the 154 were stopped for brief periods at a time but then let through.
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