Cyclist Dies From Injuries in Tuesday Crash

posted: August 28th, 2013 04:17 pm | 21Comments

UPDATED with information about the victim

A Laguna Beach woman has died from head injuries sustained in a crash Tuesday afternoon on East Coast Highway just east of Newport Coast Drive, police said in a news release today.

Debra H. Deem, 58, was cycling westbound on East Coast Highway about 4:27 p.m. Tuesday when the collision occurred with a minivan also traveling westbound, police and fire officials said.

Deem was wearing a helmet but sustained major head trauma and was taken to Mission Hospital by Newport Beach parmedics.

“On August 28, 2013, Ms. Deem succumbed to injuries sustained during the traffic collision and was pronounced deceased at Mission Hospital,” the news release states.

Newport Beach police continue to investigate the cause of the collision. Information about an arrest or citation was not available immediately, said Jennifer Manzella, a police spokeswoman.

Last year, two women cyclists were fatally injured in Newport Beach within two days, leading to cyclists to demand safer streets. Sarah Leaf, who was killed in a bicycle accident on Sept. 14, and Catherine Campion-Ritz, who was killed while cycling by a hit-and-run driver the next day; read our stories here and here. Newport Beach held a memorial bike ride and created a fund that will be used for bicycle safety improvements.

Deem was an avid cyclist, friends said today. Her husband, Paul Deem, was an Olympic cyclist and is a cycling coach and owner of Cycle Werks in Costa Mesa and San Clemente.

“Debra was a friend of mine and I ride with Paul weekly,” Corona del Mar resident Michael Toerge said in an email. “She was a mother, wife, attorney, gourmet chef, homemaker and cyclist. Tragic.”

21 Responses to “Cyclist Dies From Injuries in Tuesday Crash”


Mike R.

August 28th, 2013

The prevalence of a fatality when riding a bicycle in Newport Beach is astounding. It is a sad paradox that enjoying the outdoors in the name of fitness is so lethal. I think bikers need to be aware of the odds of fatality when riding streets. It is significant and real. My heart goes out to the family of the deceased.

Robin Lemonds

August 28th, 2013

Why do we have a high speed right turn lane on a street that is typically frequented by cyclists and pedestrians? Why don't we want to slow people down at that intersection? Also, why are we dumping high speed freeway traffic onto a surface street with nothing to slow them down at the SB 73 exit onto Newport Coast?

@ robin

August 28th, 2013

First it's very sad that someone was killed. Robin the answer to your questions is very simple the roads are major thoroughfares to get people to work, the beach, soccer practice, etc. The goal of the majority of society is to get places quickly and since most people do that in cars, trucks, and SUV's all capable of going 55-60mph and at the same time sustaining a collision should one occur. The whole of society does not need to cater to the minoity that is too short sited to understand that riding a bike in traffic will produce an extreme risk of being killed. The idea that bikes should be the same as cars is akin to allowing people to swim in the entrance to Newport harbor, wouldn't be long before swimmers would get hit by boats.


August 28th, 2013

Everyone needs to slow the eff down while driving around here. This latest fatality is another example of drivers NOT paying attention. Such a waste. Just because you are in a car does not mean you own the road. This makes me sick to my stomach. Please, all you riders be on high alert. Obviously car drivers could give a shit. No excuse. Jail won't be good enough!


August 29th, 2013

The whole of society does not need to cater to the minority which is too short-sighted to see that incompetently maneuvering two tons of metal at high speed in traffic will produce an extreme risk of killing an innocent human being. The "goal of the majority of society" needs to change if this amount of collateral damage is in any way acceptable. Sick, sick society. The "goal" of society needs to f*cking change

Randy Seton

August 29th, 2013

Now that Newport's epic Newport Coast is almost built-out, it created a "Slaughter Alley", something by design and growth. Speed limits don't seem to be working anywhere in town, everybody drives impulsively to fast, and has attention issues while driving. This isn't just a bicycle issue, this is a social environmental collapse!

Issac Zerkoftsky

August 29th, 2013

Society is slow or likely not to change, and people won't slow down. It is a simple fact. So now start thinking about how you change to protect yourself. Swimming in the boating lanes of the harbor is good analogy... or it would have been if the person driving the boat was texting, or talking on a cell phone, or using their navigation system. Bikes are prohibited from using freeways 55-75mph, so why allow them on other roadways of similar speed?

simple me

August 29th, 2013

Although this wouldn't have changed the story here, it is a very good idea to help us all consider cyclists.


August 29th, 2013

This is a very sad story and heart goes out to her family in this awful time of her death. Cyclists has the right to enjoy the roads as much as cars do however, with all the distractions drivers have these days ( texting, talking on cells, children in the car etc.) it is a huge gamble and at some point a crash will occur. Cyclists fatalities are up to 65 so far this year from 7 last year. Those statistics are a grim reminder of the dangers of cycling on the heavily traveled roads.


August 29th, 2013

I commented earlier but then while leaving my "driveway" on Bayside Drive this morning I saw a young man riding a bike (casually riding, not a racing bike) and he was riding against traffic and it got me thinking. When I was young and rode bikes (in the 60's, when dinosaurs roamed the earth to all you young people), it was the law that you had to ride against traffic. It allowed me to see who was coming, how fast they were going, if they were paying attention (back then there were not cell phones, car phones, etc, and if I had to, I could ride off the road and let the morons pass. Then it seemed everyone started riding with traffic which always seemed scary to me. Granted, it might not have saved this wonderful woman's life, but I wanted to comment on this anyway. I've commented on this blog before about the insane drivers on Bayside Drive not following speed limits and why they are not ticketed. Lack of police presence is always a problem. The low-intelligence types who believe that roads are for cars ONLY are the problem. They aren't going to change. If anything, they will just get worse. Everyone, be safe out there this holiday weekend. There have been way too many involuntary manslaughters taking place by drivers who cannot find it in themselves to pay attention to what they are doing. God bless.


August 29th, 2013

Hey, I have an idea. Why don't we actually punish those drivers who kill a cyclist! Like maybe 10 YEARS MINIMUM. Yaaa, ya think?


August 29th, 2013

Seems someone is already making excuses, eh Ferdinand A......SOB already looking to plea this out at the cyclist detriment.


August 30th, 2013

Ok Ferdinand, bring us all up to speed and post the details, I would like to hear them.


August 30th, 2013

Just to clarify an earlier comment, there have been 62 bicycling fatalities in the 7-county Southern California region this year, compared to 74 for all of last year. And there have been 8 bicycling deaths in Orange County this year, compared to 14 in 2012. The reason California law, and that of every other state, prohibits riding against traffic (something cyclists call "riding salmon") is that drivers aren't looking for bicyclists coming towards them in the same lane, dramatically reducing reaction times while increasing the force of impact. It may seem safer, but riding in the wrong direction is one of the leading causes of fatal cycling collisions. Finally, intersections like this are a lingering remnant of the flawed traffic planning of the 1970s and 1980s, when the sole priority was moving as many vehicles as quickly as possible, resulting in dangerous, high-speed conditions that put everyone on the roadway at risk. Current best practices, as well as California law, focus on moving people, rather than vehicles, and for roadways to be designed using a Complete Streets format that accommodates all road users — drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as the businesses and residents who reside alongside the street. The result is a more livable community and improved safety for everyone. High speed, highway-style streets like this are precisely why Orange County has such an unacceptably high rate of traffic fatalities. Nothing will change until speeds are lowered and streets redesigned to improve safety.

Bob W

August 30th, 2013

Mike R wrote, " I think bikers need to be aware of the odds of fatality when riding streets." That is roughly akin to saying that women shouldn't wear short skirts because it increases their risk of rape. Awareness of risk is fine, but in either case the blame does not belong with the victims, but with those who break the law and cause harm to others, whether that's a cyclist or a driver. Until the public, law enforcement, and the courts recognize that and deal out punishment accordingly, we will continue to have this tragic rate of injury and fatality on our roadways. My deepest condolences to the Deem family and their friends.

Corona del Mar Today Staff

August 30th, 2013

Reply to


August 30, 2013

Ok Ferdinand, bring us all up to speed and post the details, I would like to hear them.

The commenter declined to be interviewed and asked comments about what he witnessed to be removed. We will ask police for more information and attend the city bike meeting Tuesday.

Michael K-N

September 3rd, 2013

SHARE THE ROAD It is a simple concept but one which must be driven into the conscious thoughts of all drivers. People must be aware. These California highways are for the shared use of automobiles, cyclists and pedestrians. There are laws governing their use and until people obey the laws we will continue to see tragic consequences - NO TEXTING - NO HOLDONG THE CELL PHONE IN FRONT OF THE FACE AND CLAIMING I'M HANDS FREE. - YIELDING THE RIGHT OF WAY - STOPPING BEFORE MAKING A RIGHT ON RED. I am sorry you are late for work, school or a soccer game, but how can you claim these are reasons to prohibit the shared use of the roads?

Paul Milward

September 3rd, 2013

I have been reading all these comments and it is incredible. First of all regarding the streets saying they are designed for cars at higher speeds. The residents of Newport have had several high speed accidents where cars are smashed beyond recognition. Why because of extra ordinary high speed. You want us out of Newport. When I go up Newport Coast approximate a 5 to 10% grade I see cars going well beyond 50 mph with high powered sports call less than 3 feet from the bike lane sending a message. I read a comment swimming in the Newport Channel. Boaters pilot boats recklessly. They pilot their boats too fast in the channel and they drink while pilot the boats. They don't respect safety. It is all about me. This isn't about safety this is about local attitude it goes from the beach to the road. My road my town. You don't own the beach and you don't own the highway. I see this attitude and it is not good. You were all flat landers before you moved to Newport get over it share the damn road! Most of the people in Newport are nice and I say thank you. I have no issues but I do have issues with people that say it is cyclists fault and we should stay off the road. My family has visited Newport for over several generations. Take a step back this is not worth lives.

Aussie in Newport

September 5th, 2013

Always...and I stress always assume a driver has not seen you and always assume that a driver, rider or pedestrian is going to do the wrong thing. See them see you. I know this is a bit hard when traffic approaches from behind but always keep well to the right. My thoughts are with the family of this lady.


September 9th, 2013

@ robin: We really don't need insensitive trolls like you spewing that kind of stuff. I CHALLENGE you to cite any law that states "roads are major thoroughfares to get people to work, the beach..." You cannot because there is no such law. That concept exists only in the back of a selfish mind. The CVC gives bicycles the Privilege of the roads every bit as much as your smog-bomb or any other motor vehicle. THAT is the law, if you care about actual laws.


September 10th, 2013

Wow. If you take a step back and really look at the available information, there is not enough details out there that would enable any one of you to assess fault. Cars are often liable in these collisions. So are bicycles. The rules of the road apply to both bicycles and cars. It is highly probable that this will end up ultimately being a case of comparative negligence (the negligence law followed by the State of CA). Also, nobody should be speculating that the driver was 1) speeding; 2) drunk; or 3) on a cell phone. A bicyclist can also text, talk and drive under the influence. An intelligent person will wait for the facts prior to passing judgment. Everyone knows that. Even "flat landers".

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