Irvine Driver Killed in Plunge Over Cliff

Times Staff Writer

Norris and June Brunson of Irvine were still puzzled Sunday. They could not believe that their daughter, 29-year-old Cindy Lee Brunson, would have knowingly driven over a cliff early Saturday after being awakened in her car by a police officer in Palos Verdes Estates.

“It could have been frightening for her to be awakened, so she just took off,” June Brunson said.

“It was dark,” Norris Brunson said. “And she wasn’t from that area,” her mother added.

Cindy Brunson was killed instantly when her Honda Civic plunged over a 250-foot bluff. Palos Verdes Estates police said that Officer Patrick Strahan noticed the woman at 2:25 a.m. asleep in her car. He approached the car and asked her where she was from. “She calmly told me where,” Strahan said.


Strahan then retreated to a squad car to check her license number.

Strahan said that at that point, he watched helplessly as Brunson started her car, drove down the street, jumped a curb and accelerated across a 60-foot parkway before driving over the cliff at 25 to 35 m.p.h., police said. She was thrown from the car as it plunged to the rocks below.

Minutes later, her body was lifted from the scene by a police helicopter.

The Brunsons lost a son 7 years ago in a car accident. He would have been 32 this year.


“Our hearts are just broken again,” June Brunson said. The couple has a third child, Barbara, 24, who was skiing in Mammoth at the time of her sister’s accident.

The Brunsons described the slender, dark-haired Cindy as a sensitive, sometimes depressed woman who was trying to deal with a divorce 2 years ago and the frustrations of expressing her artistic talent.

“She just couldn’t paint anymore,” June Brunson said. “You know people who are artistic. When it doesn’t flow. . . .”

Cindy lived at home and worked as a graphic artist. She graduated from University High School in Irvine and Cal State Fullerton with a degree in fine arts.

The Brunsons said Cindy’s friends said that she had never mentioned suicide, and they do not believe she purposely killed herself. Cindy had left a note Friday morning saying: “Mom, it’s such a beautiful day I’m going out for a drive. I’ll see you later.”

June Brunson said her daughter loved to ride her bike along the Back Bay in Newport Beach and walk the family’s dog.

“Cindy was a very sensitive person. . . . She just took everything so serious,” her mother said.