After PCH fatalities, father hopes grief can drive safety improvements in Malibu

Christiane Cordero Image
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
After PCH deaths, father hopes grief can drive change in Malibu
Michel Shane, who lost his daughter on PCH a decade ago, hopes the deaths of 4 Pepperdine students can spur safety improvements.

MALIBU, Calif. (KABC) -- Pacific Coast Highway runs for 21 scenic miles through Malibu, a route of magnificent beauty - and the scene of great pain.

It's where four young women lost their lives last week: Four sorority sisters from Pepperdine who were struck by a speeding driver as they stood along the side of the highway.

And it's where Michel Shane lost his daughter Emily more than a decade ago.

For Michel, hearing about the latest fatalities only resurfaces the grief he felt all those years ago - and reinforces his mission to bring safety improvements to that stretch of state roadway.

"I mean all you have to be is a person who lost someone because of a traffic fatality and ask them how they feel," Shane says.

The Malibu city council discussed safety issues on PCH at its meeting Monday night.

Michel Shane was there. As were many other residents who were fed up with speeding cars and dangerous conditions, some of whom had their own tragic stories to relate.

Malibu residents are demanding safety improvements on PCH, saying for years they've had to face dangerous conditions on the state road.

Emily Shane was struck and killed on PCH by a driver in 2010.

The driver was later sentenced to 15 years to life in prison after a conviction for second-degree murder. He may be slated for early release on parole later this year, according to a report in the Malibu Times.

Michel's daughter was struck at PCH and Heathercliff, a road that is now known as Emily Shane Way.

Michel Shane lost his 13-year-old daughter Emily to a speeding driver on PCH in Malibu in 2010.

Emily was 13 and it's now been 13 years since her death.

Time has somewhat healed those wounds for Michel - but there are always reminders.

"I bump into her friends and I see these young ladies, young beautiful ladies," he says. "Brilliant, intelligent, moving on in their lives. Passionate. And it takes a piece of my heart every single time."

As does the news of more lives lost here.

State data show deaths and severe injuries from crashes on Malibu's 21-mile stretch of PCH are elevated over the past five years, compared to the five prior.

And while the city of Malibu is often the first to hear about the issues along PCH, Shane notes that Caltrans bears the ultimate responsibility for the state roadway.

Caltrans says it has constructed several upgrades over the years - including traffic signals, high visibility striping and more visible crosswalk markings. One project will add a left-turn arrow to Las Flores.

The state agency sent ABC7 a statement which read:

"Caltrans expresses condolences to the families and friends on the tragic loss of the four students.

Caltrans has implemented numerous upgrades and safety enhancements to Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1) from Santa Monica to Oxnard in recent years, such as traffic signals, median delineators, raised center medians, crosswalks, high visibility lane striping, improved guardrails and pedestrian-activated crosswalk beacons, including one placed at Will Rogers State Beach.

Caltrans continues to develop numerous projects on PCH in coordination with the city of Malibu and other project partners to maintain and enhance the highway for the safety of residents, businesses, workers and people who seek access to beaches. We remind motorists that it is essential to slow down when driving through neighborhoods and obey traffic safety laws."

Still, Shane doesn't think that's enough.

"It's great that there's guardrails and turn pockets and this and that," he says. "Those are the low-hanging fruit,"

Michel wants to see city and state leadership collaborate on advanced technology, or explore turning part of PCH into a city street.

The stretch where the four young women were killed has houses on both sides - and sidewalks on neither.

Michel feels his own grief wasn't enough to provoke change.

"Emily was one child that was in the wrong place at the wrong time, as were these four girls. But this is four girls who go to Pepperdine, who is a major part of Malibu. And hopefully that will make the difference."

Michel launched a foundation in his daughter's name and recently helped produce a documentary on PCH dangers.

Titled "21 Miles in Malibu," the film is being shown at festivals but is not yet available online.

A trailer for the film can be seen here.

Pepperdine students honored in funeral service

The four sorority sisters are slated to received posthumous degrees and a memorial will be placed on campus to honor them.