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Looking back: Central Coast's top 10 stories of 2021

Kristin Smart.PNG
Posted at 12:41 PM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 20:37:32-05

From an arrest in a 25-year-old missing persons case to a fatal shark attack and the continuing twists and turns of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were plenty of stories to keep Central Coast viewers' attention during 2021.

In many ways, 2021 was once again defined by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with residents encouraged to get their first, second, or even third shots. Businesses were re-opened and closed and re-opened - masks were removed and put on again. Even with all of the twists and turns of the continuing health crises, there were two stories that got more of our viewers' attention than COVID-19.

After nearly 25 years, an arrest was made in the Kristin Smart missing persons case. A popular podcast about the Cal Poly student attracted millions of listeners and brought new evidence to light. Long time person of interest Paul Flores was officially charged with her murder and his father, Ruben Flores, was arrested as an accessory after the fact. A preliminary hearing found there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial in 2022.

One of the largest winning lotto tickets in history was purchased in Morro Bay, making a local man more than a half-billion dollars richer. He spoke exclusively with KSBY about his plans for the money and plenty of viewers wanted to know what he had to say.

Thousands of you watched and mourned with local law enforcement as the San Luis Obispo Police Department laid to rest a young officer killed in the line of duty. Detective Luca Benedetti lost his life in a gun battle while serving a search warrant. Another officer was injured and the suspect was killed.

Fire once again swept through the hills of Santa Barbara County - consuming thousands of acres of dried brush during the ongoing drought. The late-season Alisal fire closed Highway 101 for a time in October burning all the way to the coast near Gaviota.

The Central Coast was shocked and thousands turned to the KSBY website trying to make sense of why a local surf instructor fled with his young children to Mexico before killing them with a spearfishing gun. 40-year-old Matt Coleman is facing murder charges for the killing of his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter.

The battle continued between environmentalists and off-road enthusiasts over what should be allowed at the Oceano Dunes Recreation Area. in a unanimous vote, the Coastal Commission voted to ban off-road vehicles in three years - but the decision will likely be left up to the courts with a pending lawsuit.

A post-fire debris flow tore out 150 feet of scenic Highway 1 near Big Sur - leaving millions of tourists disappointed and taking the long way around on Highway 101. Months later cars were able to make the journey north of Ragged Point once again, at least until recent rains caused additional intermittent closures.

A change of name at Vandenberg Air Force Base caught viewers' attention. Thousands of you turned to the website to see what the new Vandenberg Space Force Base would mean for the local area.

And finally, a Christmas Eve shark attack left a Sacramento man dead and a family mourning. It was the latest in a string of attacks near Morro Bay, but the first local fatal shark attack in more than 15 years.