Family, community members and students from Pepperdine University gathered in Malibu on Tuesday, Nov. 14, a month after four students were killed in a crash along Pacific Coast Highway to call on Caltrans to improve safety conditions along the stretch of coastal road.
Roughly 100 people stood along the 23600 block of Pacific Coast Highway where four “ghost tires” were placed to honor Niamh Rolston, 20; Peyton Stewart, 21; Asha Weir, 21; and Deslyn Williams, 21, all seniors at Pepperdine’s Seaver College of Liberal Arts.
“Deslyn would do anything for the people she loved,” Bridget Thompson, a roommate of three of the victims, said through tears. “Niamh was pure joy and love personified, Asha was the most emotionally intelligent person I’ve ever met, Peyton was everything good. So nurturing, so kind.”
On Oct. 17, Fraser Michael Bohm, 22, was speeding when he crashed into several parked vehicles on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, authorities said. Those parked vehicles struck the four students, killing them.
“I lost my best friends, I lost my roommates, I lost my bridesmaids, I lost my maid of honor, I lost my everything,” Thompson said. “We lost four girls who were going to change the world.”
The ghost tires initiative, created in August by the non-profit group Streets Are For Everyone, takes inspiration from ghost bikes, roadside memorials meant to honor cyclists who were killed in a crash.
“A ghost tire is a white painted tire that is an artistic pop-up memorial that symbolizes a person whose life has been taken because of a speeding driver,” said Damian Kevitt, executive director of Streets Are For Everyone. “We were not able to put the tires where the crash actually happened because of how dangerous the area is.”
The tires were decorated with messages from friends and family before being nailed into the roadside.
“We’ve never placed four ghost tires at one time,” Kevitt said. “And it’s painful.”
Since 2010, there have been 58 fatal crashes and 210 injury crashes along the stretch of highway in Malibu, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Jennifer Seetoo.
“That’s an average of one fatality every 2.7 months, more than four fatalities a year,” said Barry Stewart, Peyton’s father.
“We had a year’s worth of fatalities in a few seconds four weeks ago tonight,” he said.
During the service, family members called on Caltrans officials to implement additional safety measures along the road, specifically in the area of the crash, referred to as “Dead Man’s Curve.”
“There shouldn’t be a highway tearing through a neighborhood with families, schools,” said David Rolston, Niamh’s father.Caltrans officials said they have completed 24 projects of around 130 recommendations made by the city in 2015, and at least a dozen more are in the works.
“Caltrans expresses its condolences to the families and friends on the tragic loss of the four students and we take this situation seriously,” officials said in a statement on Tuesday. “Caltrans has implemented numerous upgrades and safety enhancements to Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Oxnard in recent years.”
The city has spent around $39 million on traffic safety improvement projects since 2015 that include a bike route along Zuma Beach, more pedestrian crosswalk signals and intersection improvements.
Another $8 million has been set aside for future projects including median improvements near Paradise Cove and Zuma Beach, and a pedestrian undercrossing at Corral Canyon Beach.
But parents of the victims said the speed of which these projects are being completed is unacceptable.
“Caltrans has implemented one safety measure every 8.7 months since (2015),” Stewart said. “An average of three people die along Malibu PCH every 8.7 months.”
“That math doesn’t work. Fix PCH,” he said.
Bohm, 22, of Malibu, pleaded not guilty in late October to four counts each of murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. His attorney claimed his client was being chased at the time following a road rage incident.
On Sunday, Nov. 19, 54 more tires will be added next to the four students’ tires in recognition of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
“And we’ll have 10 more extra tires, unfortunately, because until Caltrans acts we’re gonna have to add more tires to those 58,” Kevitt said.
Rolston, Stewart, Weir and Williams will all be awarded their diplomas posthumously, the university said.
“Now I stand here with four huge holes in my heart trying to figure out how to live a life without them.” Thompson said