Mourners struck at site of fatal car crash
Three people were killed and six injured in a pair of traffic accidents at the same site in Hau'ula yesterday.
Two teenagers died and three others were hurt when their speeding car ran off Kamehameha Highway and hit a utility pole at 4:20 a.m., police said.
Nineteen hours later, at about 11 p.m., a group of people apparently paying their respects at a roadside memorial to the crash victims were themselves hit by a car, police said. One person was killed in that accident, one was in extremely critical condition and two others were in critical condition.
In the first accident, the speeding car was driven by a 15-year-old boy, Pepe Naupoto, who died in the crash, according to the Honolulu Medical Examiner's office. Also killed was Alithia Ah Nee, 16, a former student at Kahuku Intermediate and High School. The three others in the car, ages 14 to 16, were injured.
"It sounded like they were going 100 miles per hour," said Ryan Garcia, 30, who was camping at nearby Kakela Beach Park. "The car was so loud it woke me up when it went by, and a couple of seconds later there was a loud crash. After that, all I heard were the ambulances."
The gray 1990 Acura sedan was headed north on Kamehameha Highway and failed to negotiate a sweeping curve to the right, police said. It veered across the oncoming lane, hit a utility pole, a fire hydrant and another pole before stopping, facing the other direction.
The car's roof was caved in, its front windshield smashed and the entire driver's side sheared away. As the car was being towed away, two well-worn bodyboards jutted through the broken rear window.
CAR HITS MOURNERS
In the second accident, it was not immediately clear how many people were hit. One person died and three others were critically injured when a car plowed into the people alongside Kamehameha Highway, police said.
Police said at least one person in the car was injured.
Police said at least two patients were airlifted to the Queen's Medical Center last night after being transported to Kahuku Hospital.
While the accident was under investigation, police closed Kamehameha Highway near the scene of the crash.
Ah Nee, who died in the first accident, "was a really nice girl," said Gloria Yoshikawa, who was working behind the counter of Masa's Market in Hau'ula yesterday, just down the road from the accident site. "She came by all the time, and just last week she stopped in with her father to buy some supplies for cleaning they were going to do."
A 17-year-old Kahuku High student who grew up with Ah Nee and knew all those involved in the crash said the community was shocked. She said Ah Nee was supposed to fly back to Utah today, where she was living with an aunt and attending school.
"It is just sad," said the 17-year-old, who asked that her name not be used because a police investigation is ongoing.
Ah Nee, who was described as a fun-loving girl, had only been in the Islands for a week to visit family.
"She wanted to live life to the fullest," the Kahuku High student said.
Ah Nee has three older brothers, she said. "It is just devastating," she said. "My prayers are with them."
Naupoto had recently moved here from Texas, she said.
The three injured included two 15-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl. All were from the Hau'ula or Kahuku areas and were in serious to good condition at The Queen's Medical Center, police said.
No one in the car was using a seat belt, police said.
TIGHTER LICENSE LAW
Under a new state graduated driver's license law that went into effect last year, 15-year-olds with a driver's permit are not allowed on the road unless they are accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years old. And they are not permitted to drive with more than one unrelated person in the car or drive at all between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless the driver's parent or guardian is present.
Yesterday's accidents occurred near the construction site for a new Kokololio Bridge. The state is replacing the existing narrow two-lane bridge with a $4.4 million one that has wider 12-foot lanes, 8-foot shoulders and a 5-foot-wide protected walkway and bikeway on its mauka side.
The construction did not appear to be a factor in the first accident, police said. They did not know if alcohol was involved.
Police closed one lane of Kamehameha Highway for more than five hours yesterday while they investigated the first accident, and diverted southbound traffic onto a gravel bypass roadway used during construction. The highway was reopened in both directions about 11 a.m.
The three deaths brought to 61 the number of traffic fatalities on O'ahu this year. Last year at this time, there were 53 traffic deaths.