Details continue to emerge about the circumstances surrounding the death of 21-year-old Sarah Salam, who was struck and killed by a limousine as she attempted to cross Pacific Coast Highway on April 20 after leaving Moonshadows restaurant.
Investigators say inattention by Salam and her boyfriend in crossing the road played the decisive role in the accident. But others say a burned out streetlight, located steps away from the collision, and other preventable maintenance considerations must be taken into account.
Surveillance footage shows victim’s back turned to traffic
As Salam and her boyfriend crossed PCH to get to their parked car on the north side of the highway, surveillance footage from Moonshadows showed both their backs turned to westbound traffic as they walked diagonally from the median toward the shoulder.
“They walked to the center of the road from ocean side, and then they walked at a diagonal angle to their car,” Det. Richard Curry told The Malibu Times. “We have proof of that… they were not paying attention to their surroundings.” “The boyfriend barely made it to the other side of the road himself,” Curry said.
Though still early into the investigation process, Curry said speed does not appear to have been a factor in Salam’s death. “From initial examination only, we do not believe the limousine was exceeding the posted speed [45 MPH] for PCH,” he said. “However, no final determination has been made to date.”
Malibu Public Safety Commissioner Meril May alleges a speed limit sign just east of Moonshadows on the westbound side was obstructed by an overgrown branch.
“Cutting the branch could have been as simple as a 30-second job,” May said. “It could essentially optimize the shoulder, make the sign more visible and possibly reduced speeding.” As of this week, the branch was cut back.
Still in the dark about a burned out streetlight
While the driver has not been indicated at fault in Salam’s death, some have suggested a burnedout street light just feet away from where Salam died could have made her more visible to oncoming traffic.
“That street light was out at almost the exact spot where the person was killed,” May said. “Maybe after someone dies the first thing you’d think to get done is to get the light fixed.” “We’ve been calling for more than a week,” he said.
Mark Olson, a field representative for Edison in Malibu, said the burned out streetlight had not been brought to his attention until an interview with The Malibu Times on Tuesday. “If the street lights are on wooden poles, they’re Edison lights,” he said. “But I’m not familiar with this specific light.” Normally, he said, Edison sends a maintenance worker out within five days when a burnt out streetlight is reported.
Olson could not verify how long this particular light had been on Edison’s radar.
As of Monday night, the light had not been replaced. Still, Curry maintains a burned out street light does not outweigh pedestrians not paying better attention to their surroundings.
“Anyone can make an argument that the roadway was too dark but it does not relieve [the pedestrians] of their personal responsibility,” Curry said. “... [They] have personal responsibility to be aware of their surrounds (sic) and only cross a roadway when it is safe to do so.”