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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:24 a.m., Monday, February 3, 2003

Speed possible factor in fatal crashes

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Speed appears to be a contributing factor in three motor vehicle crashes over the past two days on O'ahu that killed two people and injured 10 others.

The string of accidents began Saturday at 7 p.m. when a Makapu'u-bound pickup truck swerved off Kalaniana'ole Highway in Waimanalo, slammed into a concrete pillar and crashed into a utility pole, killing a 21-year-old man and girl, 17. Six others in the truck, including the 31-year-old driver, were injured.

The medical examiner's office today identified the dead girl as Jamie Singleton but was not ready to release the name of the male victim.

Two men from Pearl Harbor, meanwhile, were injured when a 2002 Toyota 4Runner veered off Moanalua Freeway near the Ala Kapuna Street overpass, went up an embankment and struck a tree. The 19-year-old driver is in fair condition at The Queen's Medical Center while his passenger, 24, is in critical condition.

A man and girl on a motorcyle were badly injured yesterday in a head-on collision at 8 p.m. on Hihimanu Street in Waimanalo. The man, 26, who was operating the motorcycle that collided with a 1990 Nissan sedan is in critical condition at Queen's. His passenger, 17, is in guarded condition, according to police.

Police investigating the collision closed Hihimanu Street to traffic until 4 a.m. today.

In addition, a 41-year-old woman who was struck by a car Friday while trying to cross Farrington Highway in Waipahu has been identified by the medical examiner's office as Corliss Okamoto. Vehicular homicide investigators said Okamoto was not in a crosswalk.

The three deaths since Friday raised the traffic fatality total for the year on O'ahu to nine.

The girl and man who died in Saturday night's pickup truck crash and four other passengers two girls, ages 16 and 17; a 20-year-old man and boy, 17 were thrown from the open bed of the truck. The driver was also ejected from the vehicle while his front-seat passenger, a man who is 18 or 19 years old, was still inside the truck when help arrived.

The driver, front-seat passenger and 16-year-old girls were treated at Castle Medical Center and released. The 20-year-old man is in fair condition at Queen's but the hospital would not release condition information on the two juveniles.

After striking the utility pole, the truck rolled over repeatedly before becoming lodged in a ditch two properties down from the utility pole.

John Kaulu is a retired police officer and former Marine who lives at 41-590 Kalaniana'ole Highway. The rock wall lining the drainage ditch and the severed concrete pillar front his property. He said he jumped to his feet when he heard the crash about 7 p.m. Saturday.

"I didn't hear the kids scream, though," he said. "So the truck must have been rolling before I could even get out of my seat."

As he moved toward the door, he saw a bright light and a blue sparking as the electrical wires swung above the broken utility pole. A cable snapped, but the live wires held. On the ground, the scene was chilling.

"The people were just everywhere," he said.

Kaulu tried to help the first four people he came across, but one of the men already had no pulse. A young woman was still breathing when he came to her, and a nurse who was passing by stopped to help her. Despite their efforts, she died at the scene.

The truck was so crumpled that it was difficult to determine whether it had been a van or a pickup.

Kaulu said that although the Fire Department tried to wash down the accident scene, the smell of destruction hung in the air. The odor clung to him, and he said he awoke yesterday morning from dreams of his experiences as a Marine in Vietnam.

Marisa Akiona, who lives at 41-578 Kalaniana'ole Highway, the property fronted by the ditch where the truck came to rest, said she heard the crash, too, and at first had a difficult time piecing together what had happened. She saw something in the road, and at first thought the neighbor's dog had been hit, but then realized the thing was a duffel bag.

"There were pillows and blankets, too," she said. "They must have been camping or something."

Then she saw the dead and injured. Several injured men lay in the grass at the edge of her yard, and a girl was lying in the street, dead.

Paramedics said the girl and the young man who died carried no identification.