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USC professor struck by truck on PCH, in serious condition

Maija Iris Heller, 33, in stable but serious condition after running redlight at Coastline Dr. in Pacific Palisades and getting hit by a delivery truck.

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Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 6:05 pm

A USC professor was in serious but stable condition Wednesday evening after being hit by a delivery truck on Pacific Coast Highway near the Getty Villa early Wednesday morning. 

Maija Iris Heller, 33, was traveling downhill on Coastline Drive in Pacific Palisades at 4:41 a.m. when she ran through a red traffic light and collided with a two-axle flower delivery truck traveling westbound on PCH, California Highway Patrol spokesman Leland Tang said. 

Heller was transported to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, where she remains in serious but stable condition after sustaining undisclosed "major injuries." 

"It should have been a fatality but we're really lucky it wasn't," Tang said. "She's really luck it isn't."

Heller is a German citizen and professor of oceanography at the University of Southern California. 

Heller's driver's license listed a Pasadena home address, Tang said, although she may have lived in the area. She was likely bicycling for early morning exercise, he said. 

Tang encouraged bicyclists to follow the traffic guidelines. 

"One of the biggest things we are having a problem with is bicyclists are not following the rules of the road," he said. "Bicyclists have to stop at stop signs, they have to stop at red lights. [Heller] ran a red light."

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  • MMA posted at 8:23 am on Mon, Oct 7, 2013.

    MMA Posts: 283

    I can only wonder how anyone knows the cyclist ran the red light. Who would have delivered this information? The driver of the delivery truck, perhaps? There couldn't have been many disinterested witnesses at that time of the morning--especially not anyone watching the light closely before the accident happened. Police and news reports shouldn't state such things as fact without knowing where the information came from and analyzing the source. It's all too easy to blame an accident on the victim who was in no condition to defend herself.

  • Ann Tomkins posted at 11:47 am on Thu, Oct 3, 2013.

    atomkins Posts: 22

    This accident is puzzling if the stated facts are correct. I used to drive down Coastline often and the light at PCH is always red. It doesn't turn green unless triggered by a sensor. Hard to believe anyone would intentionally run that light from Coastline. You would have to make a hard right or hard left at PCH so you shouldn't be going very fast anyway. I don't know how much traffic there is at that time of morning but the article didn't mention witnesses.

  • Steven posted at 10:05 am on Thu, Oct 3, 2013.

    Steven Posts: 1

    This is a tragedy and highlights the fact that bicyclists need to follow the rules of the road, like everybody else. I've seen a bicyclist hit a pedestrian before when they went screaming through a red light. I am glad that the Times reported all of the details, before we heard cries of how vehicles mow down bicyclists on PCH. Face it - PCH is a dangerous highway and we all need to follow the rules to keep safe.

    A small point - the Times is reporting that where the accident happened on Coastline Dr is Pacific Palisades. This entire area - Sunset Mesa - is (unincorporated) Malibu - NOT the Palisades.

  • DP310 posted at 9:26 am on Thu, Oct 3, 2013.

    DP310 Posts: 11

    I don't understand bicyclists. Tragic accident for both the rider and driver. Long lasting ramifications. While driving down Kanan back to Malibu there was bicyclists in the number two lane forcing drivers to make last minute lane change to avoid collision. There was a shoulder! Why?

  • Susan Tellem posted at 7:41 pm on Wed, Oct 2, 2013.

    tellem Posts: 61

    I pray she's OK , but through a red light at 4 a.m.? Seriously, sometimes you cause your own problems, so own it. Other people could have died, and thankfully did not. I am sure everyone is afraid to post what they really think here. We have to take responsibility for our own actions people. That's what grownups do.