Waialua High students try to cope with tragic deaths
By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Loren Moreno
WAIALUA — Students described the mood on the Waialua High campus yesterday as "solemn" following the deaths of two of the school's most popular and brightest seniors — Shane Bachiller and Lanakila Vierra, who were killed in a car crash early Saturday morning.
Pictures of the two and banners hung on the wall of E Building in a makeshift memorial, and throughout the day, hundreds of grieving students stopped to write messages to their late friends on colorful poster boards.
"It was really somber today. Even with the parents being so strong ... and even them telling us (Bachiller and Vierra) would want us to be positive, it was still really hard. It's going to take a while to heal," said Lilah Akin, a 17-year-old senior.
Bachiller, 18, and Vierra, 17, were passengers in a car that crashed early Saturday morning on a narrow, winding stretch of Kaukonahua Road between Wahiawa and Waialua. The carload of five teens — four of them senior boys at Waialua — was returning home at 3:45 a.m. after celebrating Bachiller's birthday.
Bachiller, a front-seat passenger in the car driven by his cousin, died at the scene. Vierra, also a passenger, was pronounced dead at The Queen's Medical Center at 2:22 p.m. Saturday. The three others in the car, two 18-year-old boys and a girl, 16, escaped serious injury.
Parents of both Vierra, 17, and Bachiller, 18, spoke to students during a memorial assembly on the Waialua campus yesterday morning, said principal Valerie Kardash. Their message: Honor the memory of Bachiller and Vierra by succeeding and staying safe.
"These were honor students, and they were loved and respected by both students and faculty. What happened was such a shock to everybody, and we're still trying to deal with that," Kardash said.
The students also were told by Vierra's parents that he wanted to be an organ donor, and that 50 people would be helped by his donation, Kardash said.
Most students leaned on each for support in dealing with the third fatal traffic accident to rock the North Shore campus in the past four years.
"It's been happening like this for too long. For the past few years, close to graduation, someone dies from a freak accident" said Mark Balinbin, an 18-year-old senior at Waialua and a close friend of Bachiller and Vierra.
Balinbin said students have learned to grieve, honor their friends and continue with life.
"We just have to swallow it and move on," Balinbin said. "That's how it is," he said.
In March 2003, Jose Delizo, 17, and Kaimana Askew-Jackson, 13, both Waialua students, died when the car they were riding in slammed into a date palm tree on the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway near Kawailoa Drive.
Three others also were killed in the crash.
Then in January 2004, Floreylyn Ramos, a 17-year-old Waialua senior, died after a pickup truck hit her while she was walking home on Hukilau Loop.
"It's almost like a curse," Akin said. "We were thinking, two weeks left (until graduation) and we're still together. We haven't lost anyone. We're all going to make it," she said.
Vierra was described as well-liked and a good student.
"Lanakila was a very special person," said Shirlene Heffner, an education aide, as she sat near the memorial. "He was very affectionate. He had a lot of friends," Heffner said.
Heffner, who helped Vierra with his studies for the past four years, said Lanakila was smart and a committed student.
Bachiller was described as quiet, likeable and an honor student.
He was in the same advanced- placement English class as Akin. Both of them had known each other since elementary school, she said.
"Everyone knows him as the shy and quiet kid, but when we would read out loud in class, he would totally open up," Akin said. "I've known him for so long, but I'm really fortunate to have had this year to get close with him," she said.
Balinbin also said he knew both boys since elementary school. He said he feels lucky to have known them.
"Nice boys, nice people," Balinbin said. "We were all close. Tragic, tragic," he said.
Reach Loren Moreno at firstname.lastname@example.org.