MALIBU, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California university wrestling with the deaths of four seniors who were struck by a car sought to comfort students and faculty Thursday in a prayer service that recalled the young women as “bright lights with promise and aspirations.”
Provost Jay Brewster gave that description of the Pepperdine University’s Seaver College of Liberal Arts students and read each one of their names aloud: Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir and Deslyn Williams. The four were among at least six pedestrians authorities said were hit by a speeding BMW as they walked along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, only a few miles from the private Christian university.
Brewster said the university was in despair from the deaths.
Sobbing could be heard from the crowd gathered at the school’s gymnasium as speakers urged members of the campus community to turn to God and each other for solace at a time of heartbreak.
“Keep loving each other through this tragedy,” said Tim Spivey, associate vice president for spiritual life at the school. “We are among God’s greatest gifts to each other.”
The students were walking along the coastal highway at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday when the driver of a BMW lost control and sideswiped at least three parked vehicles before crashing into the girls and hitting two others, authorities said. The four women were pronounced dead at the scene and the two others were taken to a hospital with injuries.
Weir was from Philadelphia and studying English, while Rolston, from Los Angeles, and Stewart, from New York, were both studying business, according to CBS Los Angeles. Williams was from an Atlanta suburb and looking into becoming a veterinarian.
The 22-year-old driver was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. The crash is under investigation.
“None of this makes any sense,” university President Jim Gash said. “Our world has been shattered.”
“We must grieve and hope at the same time,” he added.