An emotional prayer service was held at Pepperdine University Thursday in memory of four students who were killed in a violent crash on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.
Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir and Deslyn Williams, all in their 20s and seniors at Pepperdine’s Seaver College of Liberal Arts, were killed while standing or walking in the 21600 block of PCH around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
All four were remembered during a packed prayer service at the university’s Firestone Fieldhouse Thursday morning. Classes at the Seaver College were canceled between 10 and 11 a.m. to allow students time to attend the service.
Pepperdine Provost Jay Brewster said during the gathering that all four women would posthumously receive their degrees.
“Seaver College has established a policy where students who have displayed a high record of achievement both socially and academically are qualified to receive a posthumous degree,” Brewster said. “It is my great pleasure as the university’s chief academic officer to note that all four of these students are qualified to receive this honor in the class of 2024.”
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Fraser Michael Bohm, 22, of Malibu, was driving a dark-colored, four-door sedan westbound on PCH Tuesday night, apparently at high speed, when he swerved onto the north shoulder of the road and slammed into three parked vehicles, heavily damaging all of them and leaving one on its side.
“Subsequently, those vehicles hit four female adults standing on the side of the roadway near the parked vehicles,” sheriff’s Capt. Jennifer Seetoo said during a news conference Wednesday. “The four females were pronounced dead at the scene.”
Bohm, who suffered minor scratches and bruises in the crash, was taken into custody at the scene on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Jail records show he was released from custody around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday, with sheriff’s officials saying the investigation was continuing.
Investigators said they were still working to determine if Bohm was impaired at the time of the crash, but there is no indication that the suspect was involved in any type of street race, with a detective saying no other vehicles were believed to have been involved.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Pepperdine University President Jim Gash sent a message to the campus community confirming the crash victims were students.
“To the students who loved, lived with, and were in community with the departed members of our Pepperdine family, my heart is broken with yours,” Gash wrote. “I join you in your grief as we process this profound loss. To the faculty and staff members who mentored and loved these students throughout their academic journeys both inside and outside the classroom, I offer prayers of comfort, support, and gratitude.”
Gash added, “In the days ahead, we will come together in meaningful ways to honor and celebrate the lives of the remarkable individuals lost to this unthinkable tragedy. We will harness the strength found in the bonds of friendship and the community that unites us.”
University officials said the campus is offering “spiritual and emotional support, including from the counseling center, from the pastoral care team, and the student care team.”
The university urged students in need to support to contact the school’s Counseling Center at 310-506-4210, with counselors available around the clock.
KNX News reported from the scene Wednesday morning that there may have been a Pepperdine fraternity party in the area of the crash Tuesday night.
Seetoo made an impassioned plea to the public to slow down while driving on PCH, saying the street is the scene of too many horrific crashes that have claimed lives in the past. She said the department is working with elected officials “to make sure people are educated about the dangers of PCH, to slow down on PCH.”
She also called for stepped-up enforcement efforts, including the use of speed cameras.
“We’ve got to change with the times. The technology is an option. These speed cameras are going to be in six cities in 2024,” she said, referring to state legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that will create a pilot project installing speed cameras in cities including Los Angeles, Glendale and Long Beach.
“We’ve got to keep our eyes on this technology because I believe it will save lives,” Seetoo said. ” … We’ve got to do something about it. So that’s my call to action to the community — let’s partner together to save lives. Elected officials, I need your help. Let’s partner together to save lives.”
Anyone with information related to the crash was asked to call the traffic investigations office at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station at 818- 878-1808.
–City News Service