Furious Malibu residents unleashed on city officials in a heartbreaking safety hearing to demand improvements to the perilous Pacific Coast Highway.
After four Pepperdine University students were tragically killed last week while walking along the highway, a public meeting on Monday turned hostile as dozens of locals called for safety upgrades.
‘How many more deaths before something is done?’ one tearful resident told the Malibu City Council. The road has been the scene of 49 fatal collisions in the last decade.
Before the meeting was held, Michel Shane, a Hollwood film producer whose daughter Emily, 13, died on the road in 2010, told DailyMail.com he was dismayed at the lack of action in the 13 years since his family was ripped apart.
‘It’s just brutal,’ said Shane, who also spoke at the hearing. ‘Officials, they just don’t really seem to care.’
Michel Shane, a filmmaker best known for Catch Me If You Can, spoke at the hostile meeting on Monday. Before the hearing, he slammed local officials in an interview with DailyMail.com for not ‘really seeming to care’ about the perilous highway
Furious Malibu residents including Shane (left) addressed city councilors to plead for action to be taken over the ongoing tragedies
Shane’s film 21 Miles in Malibu laid bare the dangers and mounting death toll of California’s ‘blood alley’, a strip of the Pacific Coast Highway which runs through celebrity playground Malibu. There have been 49 people killed on the road in 10 years
Amid mounting anger from residents over a failure to update the highway, city councilors floated an idea to declare a state of emergency. Staffers were directed to prepare a report on the possible emergency declaration, which would allow safety improvements to be passed through quickly.
But the fact it has taken dozens upon dozens of deaths, and more non-deadly crashes, to reach that point sparked fury inside the Malibu council hall.
‘This is truly a time of mourning and it is also a time for action,’ County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath told the council. ‘Safety along the 21-mile stretch of Pacific Coast Highway has been a problem for far too long.’
Horvath’s impassioned speech saw her pledge that ‘we will not let the boundaries of government bureaucracy be the reason we do not take action’, but Shane admitted beforehand that he doesn’t place much hope on local officials.
In a phone interview in the aftermath of the Pepperdine crash, Shane told DailyMail.com that the attitude from local leaders over the years has been that it is ‘someone else’s problem.’
‘I can’t take what is going on and on at PCH, over and over again,’ he said. Shane, best known for blockbusters Catch Me If You Can and I, Robot, produced a documentary about the highway this year titled ’21 Miles in Malibu.’
The documentary points out that despite the countless studies and grim statistics about the safety of the PCH, the infrastructure of the stretch remains as it was in the 1950s.
There are also no sideways along large portions of the strip of the highway, despite there being lots of pedestrian magnets including bus stops and a shopping center.
‘I don’t think people really get angry or willing to do what needs to be done until it touches them,’ Shane said. ‘That extends to the officials, they just don’t really seem to care.
Filmmaker Michel Shane, center, partnered with director Nic Davis, right, for 21 Miles in Malibu. They are pictured with Shane’s wife Ellen, left, who also appears in the documentary
Shane made the film ’21 Miles in Malibu’ in honor of his daughter Emily, 13, who was killed by a reckless driver in 2010
Final memories together: L-R Asha Weir, Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, and Deslyn Williams are pictured enjoying a meal together with friends just weeks before the women were mowed down and killed on the PCH
For years, locals have complained about the infrastructure and have come to know the Pacific Coast Highway as monikers including Blood Alley and Dead Man’s Curve
‘Everyone just looks to it as someone else’s problem… I had my beautiful 13-year-old daughter one day and then I don’t, first you have too learn to live with it but second it opened my eyes (to the dangers of the PCH).’
Shane’s daughter Emily was walking from her friend’s house to meet her father when she was struck by a vehicle along PCH at Heathercliff Road – which has since been named Emily Shane Way in her honor. She died instantly.
Shane admitted he hopes to bring attention to the dangers now by getting people ‘angry’ at the inaction around it.
At Monday’s meeting, this frustration was evident as one resident wept while recalling the heartbreaking deaths of the four Pepperdine University students Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir and Deslyn Williams.
The driver in the crash, star baseball player Fraser Bohm, 22, is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
‘My daughter’s 30th birthday is in a few hours, and these beautiful girls they won’t see their 22nd, 23rd birthdays,’ she said.
‘How many more deaths before something is done?’
Niamh Ralston (left) and Asha Weir (right) were among four Pepperdine University students killed when a BMW crashed into a parked car and then hit them in Malibu on Tuesday night
Peyton Stewart (left) lived with Niamh and Asha during their final school year together, and was joined on the fateful evening by Deslyn Williams (right)
At the meeting on Monday, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain Jennifer Seeto (pictured) said there will be increased police presence on the road, and insisted that she is committed to ‘the three E’s’ – education, enforcement and engineering
The calls for action saw officials float a number of potential safety improvements at the hearing, with Horvath saying she has been in touch with state transportation officials and is calling on Caltrans to do what can be done immediately to reduce speed limits on the highway.
Horvath said she will also look to increase California Highway Patrol enforcement along the stretch, with similar measures in 2019 reportedly seeing a significant improvement in road safety statistics.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Jennifer Seeto pledged to council deputies that there will be an increased presence on the roadway, and insisted that she is committed to ‘the three E’s’ – education, enforcement and engineering.
Some speakers at Monday’s meeting also called for an expansion of a newly approved state pilot program allowing the installation of speed cameras in select communities.
The legislation that authorized that pilot program called for the cameras to be installed only in limited numbers in the cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.
Horvath said she has also called for an immediate meeting of the Pacific Coast Highway Task Force, a group of various stakeholders charged with exploring ways to improve safety on the roadway.
She said the group was not set to meet again until December, but it will now convene in early November.
The strip of highway is also famously the scene of Caitlyn Jenner’s collision with victim Kim Howe in 2015. Jenner is pictured in 2019
The crash saw Jenner plow into the back of Howe’s car, killing her
Amid the ongoing crisis, there have been hundreds of collisions along the PCH in recent years, with perhaps the most notable coming in February 2015.
Caitlin Jenner, who then identified as Bruce and was at the start of her transgender journey, slammed into the back of a vehicle driven by 70-year-old Kim Howe.
It prompted a four-vehicle crash which killed Howe, an animal rights activist, at the scene, and Jenner went on to pay $800,000 in damages to Howe’s family.
Earlier that same year, 47-year-old rapper MC Supreme, best known as the artist behind ‘Black in America’ was another victim of the perilous highway in June when he was sitting in a parked vehicle when a pick-up truck smashed into him.
The artist, real name Dewayne Lawrence Coleman, was pronounced dead at the scene while his female passenger was taken to hospital.
At the time, Hollywood actor Rob Lowe condemned the road, tweeting: ‘PCH’s been a death trap for decades. No local care to address it. Sad and unacceptable.’
Further instances have seen 17-year-old Brooke Hawley, Dylan Mack, 18, and Albert AJ Rossie, 17, all lose their lives in a horror smash caused by drunk driver Bani Duarte, in 2018.
More recent victims include Annabelle Ferrer Robinson who was killed with her dad, aunt and family friend in a fiery crash on the highway near Point Mugu Rock in November last year.
In February, a meeting of California transport authority Caltrans committed to redesigning the stretch of road with heightened safety measures in mind – though the changes are still in the planning phase.
1990s rapped MC Supreme, left, was killed on the Malibu stretch of the highway in 2015 while Annabelle Ferrer Robinson, right, was killed with her dad, aunt and family friend in a fiery crash near Mugu Point in November last year
Dylan Mack, 18, and Albert ‘AJ’ Rossi, 17, were also killed when a drunk driver rear-ended their car when they were stopped at a red light on the highway in 2018
For Shane, the repeat tragedies bring back heartbreaking memories of losing his daughter over a decade ago, which he said is something you ‘just learn to live with.’
The man who killed Emily, Sina Khankhanian, admitted to targeting the teen expressing that she ‘deserved to die’ while he was speeding on the highway.
Sina Khankhanian was sentenced to 15 years to life imprisonment after recklessly driving into Emily Shane in 2010. He was said to be ‘despodent’ after losing his job
He was under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol at the time, and his lawyers said he had been diagnosed autistic. Khankhanian was sentenced to 15 years to life on manslaughter charges in 2012. He is expected to be released around Christmas 2023, reports The Malibu Times.
Shane said while he is glad to see Khankhanian out of his family’s life, he blames Los Angeles DA George Gascon for ‘insane’ policies allowing for his early release.
‘(Gascon) is releasing people out into the public and that’s why we have the crime and everything that’s going on,’ he said.
With a lack of any concrete action from officials to turn the situation around, Shane said progress will have to come from a change in attitude towards the situation – in a similar evolution to attitudes towards drinking and driving.
‘When I was growing up, drinking and driving was frowned upon but people did it,’ he said. ‘It was obvious.
‘Now, if you speak to the youth of today, it’s very rare when someone will intentionally drink and drive… that happened because of an education.
‘We turned up and we showed them, we explained and created change, and I’m hoping we can cause a similar change.’