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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 20, 2005

Driver drunk in Maui plunge

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

WAILUKU, Maui — The driver of a car that tumbled 150 feet down a West Maui cliff, killing two people last month, was highly intoxicated and also under the influence of marijuana, Maui County's medical examiner said yesterday.

Toxicology tests on Denise Callo, who died in the crash, showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.27 percent, which is more than three times the legal threshold for drunken driving and the equivalent to being under the influence of at least eight to 10 drinks, said Dr. Anthony Manoukian.

Manoukian said Callo's alcohol level was approaching the lethal range of 0.30. The legal standard in DUI cases is 0.08 percent.

"She was very seriously drunk," he said.

Manoukian also said there were indications Callo was a "seasoned drinker," so she might not have been exhibiting all of the symptoms of someone who is highly intoxicated.

As for the marijuana, test results indicated "very recent use," he said.

Callo, 34, may have even smoked marijuana at the Honoapi'ilani Highway lookout shortly before the 1992 Nissan sedan plunged over the side of the cliff, killing her and 16-year-old passenger James Makekau, Manoukian said.

Makekau also had marijuana in his system, but no alcohol, Manoukian said.

Callo was found crushed inside the car and Makekau was thrown onto the rocky beach. Two passengers, a 3-month-old baby and her 16-year-old mother, an acquaintance of the victims, managed to survive the April 13 crash relatively unscathed.

An attempt to reach the young mother was unsuccessful yesterday.

Police said the four Upcountry Maui residents had stopped at the unpaved overlook after a day at the beach in West Maui. Callo attempted to make a U-turn, but the right front tire caught the edge of the cliff, causing the car to tumble to the rocky shore below.

Reach Timothy Hurley at thurley@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 244-4880.