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New details emerge in death of pedestrian on PCH in Malibu

Streetlight next to site where 21-year-old woman was struck and killed crossing PCH across from Moonshadows restaurant remains out.

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Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 7:45 am

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.”

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    wiliardikotram Posts: 342

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  • Matt Horns posted at 11:50 pm on Sun, May 5, 2013.

    Matt Horns Posts: 739

    Last Friday my friend Colette and I were driving west on PCH on our way to the Malibu Lagoon reopening event.. The light turned green at the Topange Canyon Road intersection and we proceeded cautiosly. A guy carrying his surfboard darted across PCH right in front of us. We in the left lane, and another motorist in the right lane, had to slam on our brakes to avoid mowing down this bonehead.

    200 feet to the east was a safe crosswalk at the intersection. 100 feet to the west was the pedestrian underpass beneath the Topanga Creek bridge. This jackass decided that saving a few minutes of walking was worth possibly triggering a colllision that endanged his and other people's lives.

    At LA Metro Train Stations, there is a yellow safety line near the tracks. Going past these lines puts yourself and others at risk of certain death. I amazad tht only a few people are killed each year at these train stations.

    In the realm of public safety, personal responibility is the formost issue. No amount of crosswalks, traffic lights, or valet parking can keep someone safe when they choose to run in front of a moving vehicle.

  • BAAS posted at 2:10 pm on Sun, May 5, 2013.

    BAAS Posts: 16

    Having a business, which serves alcohol... bares a certain responsibility.

    This may usually be thought of, as only towards any potential drivers... whom they may be serving...

    When there is a real and present danger, to all whom have been served... whether consuming alcohol or not... when they step out the front door... or entering for that matter, if they have parked on the side of the highway, in order to be served there...

    When such a condition exists... such responsibility comes to the front...

    And this is where Valet Only Parking needs to be... And even then the valets are at risk... Yet, the public is not.

    Alcohol and crossing PCH... day or night... is not a good mix... for any drink...

    So, since Moonshadows, offers the service and the Government offers the public parking...

    Moonshadows could require Valet Parking Only for all guests who cannot park in Moonshadows' parking.

    Caltrans, could create no parking zones around all Highway restaurants and bars...

    Moonshadows and Caltrans could create a Valet Parking Only section on PCH across from and next to Moonshadows. Maybe, it would become a popular theme on the California Coast... and Highways...

    There are four patrons in total... One is the designated driver... How do they cross the highway... ? They have all had at least one drink... Does the designated driver alone... take the leap... or all four ?

    And who then is the valet, to tell them otherwise, when the valet does not have their keys...

    The only way to put having a valet in service is for the valet to have the keys.

    Requiring... Valet Parking Only... is something Moonshadows can do entirely on its own... It is just a matter of how responsible a business they see themselves to be.

  • new to the neighborhood posted at 1:39 pm on Sat, May 4, 2013.

    new to the neighborhood Posts: 3

    There might be an explanation for having turned the back to the traffic.

    Making their way to the median of PCH she might not have expected for cars coming from the RIGHT side.

    As the victim was studying in England, she was used for the traffic coming from the opposite directions.

    This is a frequent cause of accidents e.g. in Hongkong. Therefore on crosswalks you find markings on the pavement in which direction to look first.

    But as I mentioned in another post, I think it will be a good idea for the Valet Parking Staff of Moonshadows to have an extra eye on departing guests.

  • Malibuite posted at 11:22 am on Sat, May 4, 2013.

    Malibuite Posts: 30

    how about if you offer must also offer a sidewalk and a cross walk... or simply post NO PARKING

    perhaps a few lives might be saved from Malibu Death Walk on PCH

  • BAAS posted at 10:41 pm on Thu, May 2, 2013.

    BAAS Posts: 16

    A good question, would be... How much had they been drinking... and then how responsible is Moonshadows being, with the number of drinks they serve... ?