22-year-old arrested after 4 Pepperdine students killed in multi-car crash on PCH in Malibu

Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Malibu community mourns 4 Pepperdine students killed in PCH crash
Pepperdine University identified the four students killed in a crash on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

MALIBU, Calif. (KABC) -- A 22-year-old driver was arrested after a crash on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu killed four Pepperdine University students and injured two other people, officials said Wednesday.

During an afternoon press conference, Lost Hills Sheriff's Station Capt. Jennifer Seetoo said Fraser Bohm was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence but did not release further details.

Bohm was booked, but authorities said he has since been released from custody, with sheriff's officials saying the investigation was ongoing.

The crash was reported around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 21500 block of PCH. Investigators believe Bohm was driving westbound when he lost control, hit at least three parked vehicles, which then crashed into the group of women.

"Subsequently, those vehicles hit four female adults standing on the side of the roadway near the parked vehicles," sheriff's Capt. Jennifer Seetoo. "The four females were pronounced dead at the scene."

Pepperdine University identified the students killed in the crash as Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir and Deslyn Williams, all seniors at the university's Seaver College of Liberal Arts. They were also sorority sisters.

MORE COVERAGE: Driver arrested in crash that killed 4 Pepperdine students on PCH

A 22-year-old man after four Pepperdine students were fatally struck following a multi-car crash on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, authorities say.

Bohm, who suffered minor scratches and bruises in the crash, was taken into custody at the scene, sheriff's officials said.

Two other victims were rushed to a hospital in unknown condition.

Bohm was initially detained. A sobriety test was administered, and authorities said Tuesday night that drugs and alcohol did not seem to be a factor. Authorities didn't provide further details on this during Wednesday's press conference.

At least four vehicles were believed to be involved in the collisions.

Pepperdine University officials say they have "reason to believe" the victims were Seaver College students.

Bodies were visible at the scene, along with severely damaged vehicles. The Los Angeles County Fire Department told Eyewitness News Tuesday that speed was likely a factor in the crash.

In an interview, a woman who declined to be publicly identified said a fraternity party was being held near the site of the crash, which she witnessed in front of her home. When asked if the four victims were planning to attend a fraternity party, Traffic Detective Roger Schultz said based on the investigation so far, they were planning to "meet up with people," but did not know any other details.

Authorities are also investigating whether two drivers may have been street racing at the time of the collision. When a reporter asked Schultz if this might have been some sort of "speed contest," he said, "There was no other vehicle, that we know of, that was involved. Other than that, it's still under investigation also."

PCH concerns

Residents in the area say speed has become a growing problem along that stretch of PCH.

"Since COVID there has been an increase of incredible racing up and down this highway, all night long," Joan Zoloth of Malibu said.

"People in the community have complained and are really concerned," Zoloth added. "And then you have something like this."

According to data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System obtained through UC Berkeley's Transportation Injury Mapping System, between 2018 and 2022, there were 24 deadly crashes in Malibu - killing 25 people.

All but two of those crashes were on PCH, which killed 23 people.

Frustrated residents say they have been complaining about a fraternity in the area and also about the dangerous conditions along the iconic highway.

"There's no sidewalks. You get a lot of bike riders, you get a lot of pedestrians," Malibu resident Chris Hanson said. "And there's no place for them to go but around vehicles, and they're walking in the lanes. It's not a safe situation."

"Unthinkable tragedy"

Pepperdine University President Jim Gash shared a statement Wednesday afternoon, confirming the victims were students.

"Earlier today, we learned that four precious lives who brought joy and light to our campus were taken from us suddenly, tragically, and incomprehensibly," he wrote.

The message continued saying, "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."

All Seaver College classes have been canceled from 10 to 11 a.m. Thursday, with the university hosting a prayer service at that time at the Firestone Fieldhouse in memory of the victims.

"In this time of immeasurable grief and heartache, we stand together as a community and turn to our faith and each other to find hope and healing in the midst of this tragedy," the university said in a statement. "Each departed student brought a unique gift and spirit to the University, and we deeply grieve the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations of our precious community members."

City News Service contributed to this report.