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‘So mature, so selfless': Pepperdine University students honored in memorial following crash

What to Know

  • The Pepperdine students were killed Oct. 17 after a driver lost control of their vehicle on Pacific Coast Highway, striking other cars that then struck the women.
  • The victims were identified as 21-year-old Deslyn Williams, 21-year-old Asha Weir, 20-year-old Niamh Rolston and 21-year-old Peyton Steward.
  • The driver, 22-year-old Fraser Michael Bohm, faces charges that include suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

Mourners gathered Sunday to honor the lives of the four Pepperdine University students who were killed in a violent crash on Pacific Coast Highway.

Niamh Rolston, 20, Peyton Stewart, 21, Asha Weir, 21, and Deslyn Williams, 21, all seniors at Pepperdine’s Seaver College of Liberal Arts, were killed at around 8:30 P.M. on Tuesday while standing or walking in the 21600 block of Pacific Coast Highway.

Sheriff’s officials said a driver who was apparently speeding lost control while driving a dark-colored sedan westbound on PCH, swerving onto the north shoulder and slamming into three parked vehicles. Those vehicles then struck the four women, all of whom were pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver, Fraser Michael Bohm, 22, of Malibu, suffered minor injuries in the crash. He was booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Jail records show he was released from custody at around 7:20 A.M. on Wednesday, with sheriff’s officials saying the investigation was continuing.

It was still unclear if he was impaired at the time.

The deaths of the four students left the Pepperdine community in mourning. At Sunday’s service, one faculty member shared the sadness felt in the classrooms, referring to “the four empty chairs of four empty students who will be deeply missed.”

Pepperdine student Aubrey Lewis, a close friend of all four of the deceased students, also spoke at the memorial.

“Peyton, Asha, Niamh and Desilyn were our best friends. They were everything.” Recalling her friendship with Desilyn, she said, “Making others smile made her smile” and “She was joy, everyone’s best hype woman.”

Another student, Bridget Thompson, called Asha “My guidance and my strength. She was everything I wanted to be. Confident, gentle and kind. Last week, Asha brought me back my favorite flowers simply because she knew I’d enjoy them.”

Thompson said Niamh was “My better half. I’m so blessed to have known her. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She saw the best in everyone, even when I couldn’t.”

Thompson also said ”Peyton was supposed to be my Maid of Honor. She got me through my hardest times. She quickly became part of my family … always teaching me how to prepare for my future. A Gossip Girl-loving fashionista. Asha, Niamh, and I called her ‘Mom.” She was so mature, so selfless.”

Senior Coco Crandall said, ”Peyton’s kindness illuminated every room she walked into.” Of the four deceased students, she said, “I should have been with them. That was the one time I wasn’t” and “They deserved so much better than what this earth has to give. I love you, my four angels. Thank you for bettering me.”

“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,” University President Jim Gash wrote in a campus message Wednesday. “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 of support to contact the school’s Counseling Center at 310-506-4210, with counselors available around the clock.

A prayer service was held on the campus Thursday morning, with classes canceled at Seaver College to allow students to attend.

During that service, Pepperdine Provost Jay Brewster said 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.”

The women’s deaths also renewed calls to improve safety along PCH.

Sheriff’s Department Capt. Jennifer 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.”

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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