Fatal crash survivor says alcohol involved
|||Driver recalls oncoming car left no time to react|
By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer
Some of the five people in a Nissan Altima that crashed in Makaha Monday night, killing four, had been drinking after work, according to the car's lone survivor.
Uini family photo
A family photo shows Talofaga Uini, 19, and his girlfriend, Tina Vaesa'u, 18, who was killed in the Makaha crash Monday.
Uini family photo
"I didn't pay any attention to those guys," a grieving Uini said last night. "I was just worried about me and my girlfriend" a reference to 18-year-old Tina Vaesa'u, one of four people killed in the crash.
But Peter De La Cruz, 25, who also worked with the crew and left work 10 minutes later, said Christopher Tacut, 21, the driver at the time of the crash, had been drinking.
According to an Associated Press report last night, the city medical examiner's office said that Tacut had a blood alcohol level of .06, while his brother, Joshua Mendoza, 20, had a blood alcohol level of .12.
Under state law, a person with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher is deemed to be driving under the influence of alcohol.
The two backseat passengers killed in Monday's crash Vaesa'u and Verna Leina'ala Eli, 24 tested negative for alcohol, according to the AP report.
Mendoza was the original driver after the five left work, but when the group stopped for a restroom break in Ma'ili, Tacut took over, according to Uini's father, Peika Jr.
De La Cruz, in his Honda Accord, passed the others who had stopped to use the restroom but soon, he said, they "flew past me."
"They was waving me down, like calling me, telling me follow them," he said. "So I followed them. But then they was going too fast. They was way in front, I'd say about six car lengths."
He said Tacut "was just drinking and he loved driving fast. When he passed me .... he was gone."
Both De La Cruz and Uini said that though the two cars were speeding, there was no racing.
Passenger Eli asked Tacut to slow down, Uini said.
He remembers few details about the moments leading up to the collision between the Nissan and a Ford Explorer, in which he was thrown from the car.
"All I know is that I was outside the car," he said.
But he still feels the pain of losing his girlfriend and his other companions.
"Right now I don't even care about myself," Uini said. "It's going to be hard, because she's not going to be there."
Uini's family said yesterday that he managed some physical therapy for a broken right leg but that his alertness level rose and fell all day. The hospital, which listed him in fair condition, declined to grant face-to-face interviews Talo spoke by phone but the patient felt driven to deliver a message through the media.
"I wanted to say, I'm going through a lot of problems right now," he said. "I lost somebody I love very much. Could you write that I miss my girlfriend and I love her? And that I apologize to (her) family for the tragedy?"
Talo is the second of Peika Jr. and Carnation Uini's seven children, and all of the family is coping in different ways. His big sister, Emily Uini-Popo, served as his protector, trying to see that he was disturbed as little as possible and allowed to rest.
His mother vowed to contain her emotions for her son's sake, but once she was some distance from the hospital bed she let her guard down.
"It's hard for a mother," she said, her eyes welling with tears. "I feel the grief for the other families. I'm so angry at the driver. I could see if he had nobody in the car, but it was so selfish of him to take three innocent lives with him, and almost my son's, too. ... It's like a miracle having him with us."
And then Carnation Uini collected her maternal resolve.
"I have got to get myself ready for how he's going to deal with this, the loss of his girlfriend," she added. "She lived with our family, and there will be memories there."
Her husband, she said, is the one projecting the most strength.
Peika Uini is relying on his religious faith to power him and his son through the ordeal.
"My heavenly father is the first. I thank him first," he said. "He will show me the way to help my son. It's more than a miracle for him to survive.
"I'm just trying to be a man, to make him feel comfort."
Last night, Talo Uini's only comfort seemed to come in the opportunity to express remorse about what happened, especially to Tina Vaesa'u's family.
"I'm apologizing for what was caused," he said. "She will be missed. I will be thinking about her."
Advertiser Staff Writer Will Hoover contributed to this report. Reach Vicki Viotti at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8053.