Three of the four individuals killed on Malibu’s roads this month were homeless; the fourth death is still under investigation, Lieutenant Jim Braden of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department shared at the Monday, April 12, Malibu City Council meeting.
The first fatal collision happened around 2 a.m. on Thursday, March 11, near the intersection of Puerco Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway, Braden explained. A car traveling eastbound on PCH struck an individual who was in the roadway. Braden said that during his team’s investigation, they obtained surveillance video from a house just east of Corral Canyon Beach.
“Basically, it showed that the individual stepped out into the roadway,” Braden told the council.
The next two fatal crashes happened at Busch Drive and PCH, when three homeless individuals were crossing the road. The incident occurred at night and all had dark clothing on. A car traveling west on PCH struck one of the pedestrians, who was declared dead at the scene.
“In the minutes after the individual was struck, one of the other people that was crossing the road with him ran to the west side of PCH and was picking up items off the roadway,” Braden continued, saying that a tow truck heading east on PCH came upon the second individual, capturing footage of the second fatal collision of the night.
“We recovered video, a dash cam that was on his tow truck—the camera points forward—but basically, it shows the individual in the roadway on the west side in the westbound lanes … He wasn’t really paying attention to [the fact] that there could be traffic coming and he stood up and was struck and killed at the scene.”
The lieutenant further explained that on Saturday night, April 10, at Corral Canyon, a vehicle headed eastbound struck an individual on a bicycle that did not have any reflectors or lighting on it. The car, which Braden said was going approximately 51 miles per hour based off of its black box, went into a full skid. The individual who was struck flew across the road into the westbound lanes and was possibly struck by another vehicle, the driver of which, the lieutenant believed, was unaware they had struck someone. Braden did not know where the bicyclist had been headed at the time. Braden did not say whether the victim in that accident was a homeless person; the death is still under investigation.
In all of the incidents, Braden said, none of the vehicles were traveling at excessive speeds. None were driving drunk, according to breathalyzer tests they submitted to at the scene. Braden attributed most of the fatalities to the victims having done something “in a dangerous manner—either running across a dark roadway, being in the roadway, or on a bicycle in the roadway.” Braden said he did not know whether any of the victims had been intoxicated at the time of death.
Braden called all of the deaths unfortunate and the spate of incidents “rare” for Malibu. He said his deputies were currently out talking to homeless people around Malibu about being safe around PCH and that they would continue to do so.
“I don’t really have suggestions as far as, you know, ‘Oh, if we had lighting here, if we had this or that, it wouldn’t occur,’” Braden said. In the Busch Drive case, the individuals did not use the lighted crosswalk that exists there. In the Puerco Canyon case, the individual seemed to have stepped into the road on purpose.
Braden urged residents who see individuals walking along PCH whom they think may be hit to call him and his team.
“Make those calls to us. They’re very important. They can save someone’s life,” Braden said on Monday.
In response to the report, Mayor Mikke Pierson called the story “sobering.”
When reached by The Malibu Times by phone, Malibu Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas was audibly upset.
“It’s extremely tragic,” she said. “We are looking at it to see if there are things we can do to prevent these tragedies.” Dueñas said it was unusual to experience so many fatal pedestrian collisions in such a short period of time.
Pedestrian safety is addressed in the expansive 2015 PCH Safety Study commissioned by the City of Malibu, which acknowledged that collisions involving pedestrians “tended to involve pedestrians crossing PCH away from intersections or crosswalks. Pedestrian collisions almost always result in injuries and pedestrians were involved in a majority of the fatal collisions.” Over the three-year study period, only nine of the 1,000 traffic collisions resulted in a fatality, making the four recent PCH deaths a dramatic increase.