Monday, July 15, 2024

After deaths of four Pepperdine students on Pacific Coast Highway, a memorial and a call to action

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Following the death of four Pepperdine seniors who were struck by a driver in Malibu, grieving family and friends began to share memories of the young women in social media posts and at a vigil Thursday morning.

The four seniors — Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir and Deslyn Williams — were sisters in the Alpha Phi sorority. Shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday, a car slammed into three parked vehicles and hit the four women, who investigators believe were standing near the parked vehicles when they were struck, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Fraser Michael Bohm, 22, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, said sheriff’s Sgt. Maria Navarro, watch commander at the Malibu/Lost Hills station.

Residents and local business owners, including Chris Wizner, founder of marketing agency Vivid Candi, said they want a solution to the speeding and consequential accidents in their community.

Wizner said he and others are planning to attend the Malibu City Council meeting on Monday to demand action as well as post signs from their homes with the message that drivers should slow down and another that says “Speeders cause murders.”

At the vigil, faculty expressed their sympathies through prayer to the grieving students, friends and family in attendance. The social media profiles of the slain women were also inundated with comments from mourners who expressed shock, sadness and anger at the crash that took their lives.

Morning classes at Seaver College, the liberal arts college attended by the four women, were canceled so that students could attend the prayer and reflection service and mourn their fellow classmates.

School officials also announced that all four victims, who were set to graduate this academic year, would receive their degrees posthumously.

“Each departed student brought a unique gift and spirit to the University,” said Pepperdine President Jim Gash, “and we deeply grieve the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations of our precious community members.”

Here’s what we know so far about the victims based on online profiles, interviews with friends and social media posts:

Niamh Rolston

Rolston was a business major in the class of 2024, according to LinkedIn. Her sorority wrote on Instagram that she loved “reading, binging netflix tv shows, and yoga.”

Nikki Strawn, 31, said she hadn’t seen Rolston in years but the two kept up with each other on Instagram.

Strawn was Rolston’s former gymnastics coach at Gymnastics Olympica USA Inc. in 2014 when Rolston was a teenager.

“That’s what makes it so sad, you know, she was so determined and so motivated and she was always a role model to all the other girls,” Strawn said. “So it’s so sad that was cut short from her.”

Strawn describes her friend as a very motivated gymnast who set her mind to anything she did and was a very “happy-go-lucky girl.”

“She was a little bit shy when you first met her, but as soon as she opened up, she was very silly and always put a smile to your face,” she said.

Peyton Stewart

Stewart was also a business major and wrote on LinkedIn that she was interested in a career in finance. In February, she told the school paper, the Pepperdine University Graphic, that she enjoyed following fashion and exercise trends on social media.

“Skincare is a huge thing for me because it’s part of my day where I can just relax,” Stewart told the paper.

“i’ll never forget your smile and your sweet hugs whenever i saw you,” Rianna Dizon, a Pepperdine classmate, wrote on Instagram.

Asha Weir

Weir was an English major. She wrote on LinkedIn that she was interested in fashion and music.

“She loves travel and adventure and to go to school beside the ocean has been a dream for her,” her high school, Perkiomen Valley in suburban Philadelphia, wrote in a Facebook post in 2020 as she prepared for college.

“She had the biggest heart and was sweet to her core. She was pure and kind. She was selfless and brought joy to others,” Vivid Candi, the marketing agency where Weir worked, wrote in an Instagram post.

Vivid Candi’s founder and chief executive, Wizner, described Weir as a superstar and one of the most memorable people he has ever worked with.

They two met when Wizner was president and chairman of the Malibu Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce. When he stepped down over a year ago he fought for Weir to join him on his team at Vivid Candi.

About a month ago, Wizner said Weir left the company in good standing to focus on her senior year.

“My wife loves her too, she touched my wife’s soul in the most positive way,” he said.

“If you get the big picture, she is the sweetest girl in the entire universe that did not deserve this,” Wizner said.

Deslyn Williams

Williams grew up in the state of Georgia, according to the Pepperdine University Graphic. She was vice president of the school’s Pre-Veterinary Club.

“Her empathy and compassion for the animals and people that she served was an example for us all,” the club wrote on Instagram.

“You were the life of the party. You always had the best outfits for the occasion and were the best photographer. Your laughter was contagious,” wrote Fiona Moriarty, a friend of Williams’, on Instagram.

Times staff writers Grace Toohey and Jeremy Childs contributed to this report.

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