A motorcyclist was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver on Pacific Coast Highway just east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard on Thursday night, April 28, in an accident that snarled traffic in the area for hours.
The motorcycle rider was later identified by LA County Coroner officials as Jacob R. Loniak, a 43-year-old man from Santa Monica. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident at 8:30 p.m.
Loniak was a mechanical designer for Volvo, according to the most recent update of his LinkedIn account. He was also an instructor at the Art Center College of Design, where he had worked for nearly four-and-a-half years instructing transportation design and IX design majors.
“Jake was an incredible designer, a great instructor and mentor and he will be deeply missed,” read a social media post published by the Art Center. “Our hearts go out to his family.”
A letter published by Lorne M. Buchman, President of Art Center College of Design, described Loniak as an “important teacher and mentor.”
Buchman’s letter also quoted Stewart Reed, Chair of Transportation Design at the college.
“Jake had exceptional skill and technical understanding, which he enjoyed sharing with his students,” Reed was quoted as saying. “On a personal level, Jake was always relaxed and genuine around others. He was a man of conviction with a strong faith in God. We will miss him.”
The letter also said that Loniak is survived by his wife Kei and their six-year-old son.
Officer Leland Tang of the California Highway Patrol described the preliminary results of an investigation into the accident, saying it was a drunk driver making a legal turn that caused the deadly accident.
Loniak was riding his 2009 BMW motorcycle eastbound on PCH (toward Pacific Palisades) when the bike was struck by a 2007 Lexus GX470 SUV, after the Lexus driver made a left out of the Mastro’s steakhouse parking lot and attempted to cross the eastbound lanes of traffic on PCH to move west, toward Malibu. The driver of the Lexus was a 54-year-old man from Encino who was arrested on scene for “gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated,” a violation of 191.5 a of the California Penal Code. According to the code, “The killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.” In other words, it was the intoxication of the driver and his decision to get behind the wheel that led to Loniak’s death.
“The Lexus, following that collision, continued on his trajectory … and collided with a 2010 Toyota Prius driven by a 34-year-old female from Los Angeles. The Prius was traveling northbound,” Tang described.
Neither the Lexus driver nor the Prius driver sustained any injuries, Leland reported.
The accident resulted in a full closure of PCH for about 20 minutes, followed by at least two hours of the closure of westbound lanes.
The left turn out of the parking lot, Tang said, was legal, despite a sign advising against it.
“There [are] no traffic signals or anything there,” Tang said. “The left turn motion was a legal motion, you can make a left turn out of Mastro’s. There is a ‘Right Turn Only’ sign, but the ‘Right Turn Only’ sign, if you’ve ever been there, is a Mastro’s sign — it’s not a legal sign.”
The accident, which took place outside of Malibu city limits, was not in an area of highway affected by last year’s PCH Safety Study, but the safety issue of making left lanes across traffic is mentioned in the much-lauded study.
The study includes suggestions to construct medians in heavily trafficked areas including Zuma Beach, the stretch from Kanan Dume Road to Latigo Canyon Road, at Paradise Cove Road, at Malibu Colony Cove Drive, the stretch from Corral Canyon Road to Puerco Canyon Road, the stretch from Serra Road to the Malibu Pier, at La Costa Beach Club, outside of Moonshadows, at Big Rock Drive and other areas.
These recommendations are intended to help avoid preventable accidents like the one on Thursday night.
Friends of Loniak’s wife Kei set up a charitable donation page to help raise funds for his surviving family. Those interested in donating can see the page at gofundme.com/2ehu5w2c.