Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 3, 2003

Witnesses recall scene after crash in Waimanalo

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Authorities have not yet released the identities of two people who died Saturday when a pickup truck swerved off Kalaniana'ole Highway in Waimanalo, killing a 21-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl who had been riding in the open truck bed, and injuring the driver and five other passengers.

A rose was left at the site of a deadly crash in Waimanalo.

Deborah Booker • Honolulu Advertiser

Residents and police said the driver, a 31-year old man, was Makapu'u-bound when he steered the truck off the right side of the road and cut across the edges of several lawns and driveways. The truck slammed through a concrete pillar reinforced with steel and hit a rock wall that lined one side of a 3-foot-deep drainage ditch before becoming airborne and crashing into a utility pole, severing it from its base and pushing it several feet away from the road.

The truck then rolled repeatedly before lodging itself into another ditch, two properties down from the utility pole.

Police suspect that speed and alcohol were factors in the accident.

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 beautiful girl was lying in the street, dead.

Paramedics said the girl and the young man who died carried no identification, so they were turned over to the medical examiner's office as Jane and John Doe. Police later developed tentative identifications, and the medical examiner's office is expected to confirm the names this morning.

Authorities said the driver of the dark blue Chevy S10 pickup apparently left the road while trying to pass a car by swerving to the right.

The couple in that car told police the pickup truck driver had been flashing his headlights at them before he drove off the highway.

The girl and man who died and four other passengers — a 17- or 18-year-old woman, a 16-year-old girl, a 17-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man — were thrown from the open bed of the truck.

The driver was hurled from the cab of the truck. The passenger in the front seat, a man who was either 18 or 19 years old, was the only one of the eight people who remained in the truck, police said. None wore seat belts.

The front passenger and the 16-year-old girl were taken to Castle Medical Center and released later Saturday night.

The other four injured people were taken to The Queen's Medical Center in critical, serious or guarded condition. Authorities said the condition of at least one of the patients at Queen's, the 20-year-old man, was upgraded to fair yesterday.