Tragedy in Malibu, California
Four students from Pepperdine University in Malibu lost their lives in a tragic car accident that occurred on Tuesday night on the Pacific Coast Highway. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the crash took place around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday when the suspect, a 22-year-old Malibu resident, apparently lost control of his BMW. The driver crashed into three parked cars before fatally hitting the victims, who were reportedly on the side of the road.
Sheriff's authorities stated that the driver was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, but jail records show that he was released around 7:20 a.m. on Wednesday, citing the California Penal Code, Section 849(b)-1, which states that a suspect can be released if there is insufficient grounds to file a criminal complaint against the arrested person. The investigation into the accident is ongoing, according to authorities.
On Wednesday, officials from Pepperdine University confirmed that Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir, and Deslyn Williams lost their lives in the crash. According to the university, all four students were in their senior year at Seaver College, the institution's undergraduate campus.
"For the students who loved, lived, and shared community with the deceased members of our Pepperdine family, my heart breaks alongside yours," said Pepperdine University President Jim Gash in a statement. "I join you in your grief as we process this deep loss. To the professors and staff members who mentored and loved these students throughout their academic journeys inside and outside of the classroom, I offer prayers of comfort, support, and gratitude."
Gash added, "In the coming days, we will come together in meaningful ways to honor and celebrate the lives of these remarkable individuals lost in this unimaginable tragedy. We will draw strength from the bonds of friendship and the community that unites us."
According to the sheriff's department, it is not believed that there were any other vehicles involved in the accident, and it is still unclear whether the driver may have been under the influence at the time of the crash.
Investigators believe that speed was a factor in the accident on the stretch of road known as the "Dead Man's Curve." At a press conference on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department confirmed that speed on the infamous Pacific Coast Highway is a persistent and often deadly problem.
"Some come to Malibu for its beautiful beaches," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Captain Jennifer Seetoo, "but then they never make it home."
"It's difficult. Everyone speeds... this is a heavily trafficked area by pedestrians, so it's one of those scary things where it's like 'Hey, people, slow down,'" said Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain Sheila Kelliher-Berkoh.
Seetoo urged authorities to adopt speed cameras along the highway to more effectively combat speeding drivers in Malibu. The captain pointed out that the Pacific Coast Highway stretches for 21 miles and that officers cannot be "everywhere at once."
For Seetoo, speed cameras are a step in the right direction.
"People slow down when they see a patrol car, drive according to the rules of the road. We have to do something different," said Seetoo.
At Wednesday's press conference, the devastating toll that reckless driving has taken along the Pacific Coast Highway over the years was underscored.
"This is a town, it's a college town. People need to slow down," she said.
"In this time of immeasurable pain, we come together as a community and turn to our faith and each other to find hope and healing amidst this tragedy," said Connie Horton, Vice President for Student Affairs. "Each fallen student brought a unique gift and spirit to the University, and we deeply mourn the unrealized hopes and aspirations of our precious community members."
A religious service in honor of the four women was held on Thursday.
Location: 21500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA, USA
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