1 dead, 7 hurt after truck plows into pedestrians
|||Map: Truck accident on Kalakaua Avenue|
Tragedy struck a honeymooning couple from Japan yesterday when an out-of-control pickup truck veered off Kalakaua Avenue, hitting them and five other pedestrians.
Donnie Gates, Emergency Medical Service assistant chief of operations, said five other people were taken to Queen's: two in serious condition and three in good condition.
The Ishiyamas, who were married a couple of days ago, were walking on the makai side of Kalakaua Avenue near the Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel in a group that included two other visitors from Japan and three tourists from California.
They were hit by a 2004 Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by a 62-year-old man from Palolo Valley. Vehicular homicide investigators are reviewing statements collected from more than 30 witnesses, some of whom said the driver was either asleep or unconscious when the pickup truck veered across four lanes ÷ from the mauka to makai side ÷ of Kalakaua Avenue.
The pickup truck bumped the right rear bumper of a 2003 Chevrolet Malibu, driven by a 46-year-old man from Arizona, before going onto the makai sidewalk, where it struck the pedestrians, three brochure stands, a fire hydrant, two trash cans and a police officer's parked 2000 Toyota 4-Runner, investigators said.
The pickup truck driver is in stable condition at Queen's, according to police, who have not been able to question him yet. The Arizona man who was driving the Malibu is also at Queen's but his condition is unknown.
Police said one of the California visitors, a 30-year-old woman, was treated at Straub for minor injuries and released.
The Honolulu Prosecutor's Office is assisting the injured tourists through its Visitor Assistance Program and the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai'i.
Japan Travel Bureau officials did not return calls today for comment.
Police said it's surprising more people weren't injured.
"It could have been a lot worse," said police vehicular homicide investigator Sgt. Lorenzo Ridela. "We're lucky that there weren't that many people in that area at the time."
Still, Ridela said this was the worst traffic accident he's seen in Waikiki in 15 years.
One witness, Justine Jones of Kapahulu, said the driver appeared to be asleep until the truck hit the fire hydrant and newsstands. She said the truck then seemed to gain speed, and people on the sidewalk jumped out of the way, but others were hit.
"I was walking with my sister and she said, 'Look, is that guy asleep?' By the time I turned, I saw him hit the back end of a white car and go up onto the sidewalk, hit a garbage can and hydrant, and then running over all the people," Jones said. "I was like, 'Why isn't he stopping? Why is he going faster?' "
The accident occurred in one of the busiest areas of Waikiki and hundreds of curious onlookers, some of them snapping photos, milled around the police tape that blocked the scene of the accident. The street was littered with tourist brochures, broken tree branches and other debris.
Police cars and an ambulance encircled the woman's body, which was in the middle of Kalakaua Avenue. Many onlookers gasped when the ambulance drove off, revealing the body wrapped in a white sheet.
Kalakaua Avenue was closed for nearly five hours to traffic, which was diverted to Kuhio Avenue, causing a massive jam.
Another witness, Gwen Dunbar, a 17-year-old from Tucson, Ariz., was on the mauka side of the street when she saw the truck rush by, hop the sidewalk and plow into the group of pedestrians.
She said she heard a big crash and people screaming and saw tires burning.
"That could have been me," she said. "I just stood there shaking. It happened so fast, but in my mind I can still hear it and see it."
"This is the worst accident I've seen," said acting Lt. Ian Forester, a 13-year veteran of the city's Ocean Safety division.
Yesterday's accident in Waikiki added to a growing list of pedestrian fatalities in Hawai'i this year but probably isn't typical of the dangers most walkers face, several safety advocates said last night.
At least 12 pedestrians have been killed this year in Honolulu, continuing a growing trend during the past several years. Most of those fatalities, however, involved pedestrians who were struck in the roadway or a crosswalk, not on a sidewalk.
In yesterday's accident, the pickup hit the pedestrians on the sidewalk, away from any intersections.
"This isn't the kind of thing you can really watch out for," said retired Army Gen. Irwin Cockett, who was a spokesman this year for the city-sponsored Walk Wise Kupuna pedestrian education project.
"If anything, I think people in Waikiki feel more secure than elsewhere because there are so many people crossing at the same time and because drivers don't generally speed in the area," said Cockett, a Waikiki resident.
Advertiser Staff Writers Peter Boylan, Catherine E. Toth and Mike Leidemann contributed to this report.