Breaking news — Newport Beach bicyclist dies of injuries from Tuesday collision

I’ve just received confirmation that a bike rider critically injured in a Newport Beach collision has died of her injuries.

Debra H. Deem was riding west on East Coast Highway just east of Newport Coast Drive at 4:28 pm when she was struck by a white minivan traveling in the same direction. The 58-year old Laguna Beach resident suffered major head trauma despite wearing a helmet, suggesting that the impact may have occurred at relatively high speed.

She was transported to the trauma center at Mission Hospital, where she was disconnected from life support earlier today. A statement issued by the Newport Beach Police Department late this afternoon confirmed earlier reports of her death.

A cyclist who lives in the area describes the intersection as very dangerous, with inadequate transitions from the shoulder bike lane through the freeway-style interchange.

The victim is the wife of local cycling legend Paul Deem, a former Olympic cyclist and the owner of the Cycle Werx bike shops in Costa Mesa and San Clemente. Local attorney and former bike racer David Huntsman says Deem helped inspire his own racing career, and says Debra Deem’s death will devastate the Orange County cycling community “like a death in the family.”

Deems’ fatality comes just less than a year after that of Sarah Leaf on East Coast Highway and Dr. Catherine Campion Ritz on Newport Coast Drive; the twin deaths resulted in an outpouring of grief and a commitment to improve safety in the city.

This collision was just one of two separate Orange County wrecks that left bike riders critically injured yesterday afternoon. Another cyclist was struck while riding on Rancho Santa Margarita Parkway, resulting in what was described as severe injuries; no word yet on that rider’s condition.

The Newport Beach Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee meets on September 3rd; Deems’ death will undoubtedly bring a number of riders out to discuss her death and demand safer streets.

This is the 62nd cycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the eighth in Orange County; that compares with seven in the county this time last year. As noted, it’s also the third bicycling death in Newport Beach in the last 12 months, and at least the sixth since 2010.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Debra Deem, and all her family and loved ones.

Thanks to David Huntsman, Allyson Vought and NBPD Deputy Chief David McGill for their help with this story.

Update: A friend of Deem’s describes her as “a mother, wife, attorney, gourmet chef, homemaker and cyclist,” according to Corona del Mar Today

The Orange County Register reports the victim of the Rancho Santa Margarita crash is a 34-year old man, who remains in critical condition.


  1. […] And another cyclist is killed just up the (figurative) road from the previous paragraph. Update: Bicyclist Dies from Injuries Suffered in Minivan Crash the link was originally about a seriously injured cyclist this morning… nothing about the mode of the wreck, but the location given as I post this is some kind of intersection with the cyclist proceeding along the through route. Intersection protocols might have avoided or mitigated damages in this wreck, infrastructure would have prevented it, so RIP cyclist. More Breaking news — Newport Beach bicyclist dies of injuries from Tuesday collision […]

  2. grrlyrida says:

    This is so heartbreaking. Debra and her family are in my thoughts and prayers. How many deaths will it take before municipalities change the way streets are designed and these type of collisions taken seriously.

  3. fsethd says:

    More terrible news; this is another needless death. I rode this morning on PCH for the first time in a long time and was reminded of how incredibly deadly the roads are, especially that one. So sorry for the loss.

  4. Dan says:

    Our hearts pour out our love and support for Paul and his and Debra’s family. All of us who cycle must do our best to help educate those who drive around us to be more aware and safety conscious.

  5. JD says:

    Our prayers go up for the family and friends of Mrs.Deem, and we pray that those in charge of the roads and streets will address the issue of dangerous pinch points and high speed transition lanes which endanger cyclists every day.

  6. paul r says:

    incredibly sad… my thoughts and condolences to family and friends…

  7. […] I’d like you to take a look at the following and let me know what you think.  As someone who lived in Portland (and frequently visits), I can personally attest that this has been a MASSIVE success there, pleasing both bicyclists and motorists alike.  ”Share the lane” is something that the cities tell everyone in order to prevent buying more road, but it’s something that nobody truly likes, and frankly: it causes deaths. […]

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