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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 24, 2006

'It's every mother's nightmare'

StoryChat: Comment on this story

By Eloise Aguiar and Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writers

Johanna Ramos, right, visits a memorial to her son, 18-year-old Bobby Gouveia, at the Dillingham Airfield site where he was killed Sunday riding in a speeding car that crossed Farrington Highway and hit a utility pole. From left are Gouveia's aunts Lola Kahele and Eloise Ramos.

Photos by BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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MORE TEENS KILLED THIS YEAR

Fifteen people ages 13 to 19 have been killed in traffic accidents this year.

That compares to seven in 2005, according to the state departments of transportation and health.

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HAVE TIPS?

Traffic investigators suspect another vehicle possibly a dark blue Toyota compact was involved in an accident that claimed the life of Joahl Mirafuentes of Waipahu and are asking the public's help.

Witnesses with information are asked to call 529-3068.

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Bobby Gouveia

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Kristi Dabin, front, and Leimomi Soberano, relatives of Gouveia, adjust a photo of him at the roadside memorial. Police said speed and alcohol seemed to be factors in the crash that killed Gouveia and seriously injured the 18-year-old driver and another passenger.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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WAIALUA Another family yesterday gathered to say goodbye to a Hawai'i teen killed in a speeding accident, a day after two young people died in cars that were going too fast.

Bobby Gouveia, 18, was killed early Sunday, the passenger in a speeding car.

In a separate accident late Sunday, 19-year-old Joahl Mirafuentes of Waipahu, a passenger, was killed when the driver lost control while speeding and driving erratically on Moanalua Freeway.

Gouveia's family and friends gathered at a memorial to him yesterday afternoon. A poster, flowers and alcohol bottles marked the area of the accident. Police said speed and alcohol appeared to be factors in the crash, which also left the driver of the car, an 18-year-old man, and a 17-year-old male passenger in a hospital in serious condition.

Words of love, friendship and loss were written on the poster, which included photographs of Gouveia.

"Being with cars no matter if it was racing or fixing them that was his No. 1 priority," said Johanna Ramos, 50, Gouveia's mother. Since junior high, her son had bought several cars, fixed them up and sold them, she said. "He knew how to make a living out of cars. He always helped when anybody needed help with cars."

Police said Gouveia's death was not due to racing.

The two Sunday deaths bring to 15 the number of young people ages 13 to 19 killed this year in crashes. Several also involved speeding.

In February, a 19-year-old female driver and a 15-year-old girl passenger were killed when their speeding car went airborne after it came over a rise on Pa'akea Road in Ma'ili. The car flipped on its left side, slid into a street signpost, a fence and a utility pole, shearing it in half.

In July, police said speed was a factor in a Kalaeloa crash that claimed the life of a 16-year-old boy and an 18-year-old woman. A 14-year-old boy who was a passenger was injured. Police said the 16-year-old, who was driving, drove off the end of Roosevelt Road and plowed into the embankment of a canal.

And in August, a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl were killed when the boy lost control of the car as it rounded a turn past Kokololio Bridge on Kamehameha Highway in Hau'ula and slammed into a utility pole. Police said speed was a factor in the crash.

Gouveia was killed when the 1991 Acura Integra he was riding in veered across Farrington Highway, struck a utility pole and rolled over before stopping on the grounds of Dillingham Airfield & Gliderport in Mokule'ia.

In the Moanalua Freeway crash, police said, Mirafuentes and a 21-year-old male driver were in a gray 2004 Infiniti traveling east about 11:55 p.m. Sunday when the driver lost control about a half mile before the Ala Kapuna overpass.

Witnesses told police that the car was moving erratically at a high speed just before the driver lost control.

The car flew sideways and rolled several times before landing on its roof in a grass culvert on the side of the freeway. The woman died at the scene, police said. The driver and his passenger were both wearing seatbelts, police said.

NEW LICENSING PROGRAM

Legislation aimed at addressing teen driving safety led to a new graduated licensing program, which took effect in January. It requires youths 16 to 18 to obtain a "provisional" license for at least six months before they can receive a regular driver's license. The provisional license restricts a youth's ability to drive late at night or with other teens in the car.

State House of Representatives Speaker Calvin Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo Valley, Maunalani Heights, Wilhelmina Rise, Kaimuki), said enforcement and parental guidance are key to preventing teen speeding fatalities.

"Speeding is a big concern and it's about not having the value of respect for one another," Say said. "More laws are not going to correct the problem. Enforcement is a big part and so is parental guidance. Parents should be aware of where their child is."

Say believes drunken driving and speeding are major factors in head-on collisions but so is roadway quality.

"For all two- to four-lane highways, we've got to put up barricades. It's the only way to save people's lives," he said.

NO VENUE FOR RACING

State Rep. Mike Magaoay, D-46th (Kahuku, North Shore, Schofield), represents the area where Gouveia lived.

He said in a controlled venue, testing the limits of a car is a sport, but there's a time and place for that. "But they have no place or venue to do it here."

The lack of a venue, however, does not give young drivers license to speed on public roads.

"When you go on the road, it all boils down to judgment. Values come from the family unit and the family unit is one of the greatest things we're lacking today," Magaoay said.

SPEEDING TARGETED

Meanwhile, police officials said their focus is cutting down speeding in general, not merely teen speeders.

"We're concerned with the overall number of fatalities and the significant number that involve speeding," said Honolulu Maj. Susan Dowsett, commander of the HPD Traffic Division.

A report earlier this year listed Hawai'i among the worst states in the country when it comes to teenage drivers involved in fatal accidents, according to National Safety Council and the safety advocacy group End Needless Death on Our Roadways.

More than 23 percent of the state's traffic fatalities in 2004 occurred in accidents where at least one driver was age 16 to 20, ranking the state 10th worst in the nation, according to the study done by the National Safety Council and End Needless Death on Our Roadways.

Gouveia's friends and family yesterday said all he wanted to do since he was in high school was to fix cars. Ramos said after the crash, she went to look at the car and found her son's slippers on the floor in the back seat, "like he was bracing himself," she said.

FASCINATION WITH CARS

Eloise Ramos, Gouveia's aunt, said Gouveia and friends would gather at her garage, which they jokingly called the chop shop, to work on broken-down vehicles, bringing them to life and testing them for speed.

Sheldon Oga, Ramos' son, was a mentor to Gouveia. He taught the younger Gouveia to fix Hondas and test their abilities in a race, Ramos said.

Oga, 28, is in the Navy but the boys still come to her home to work on cars, often taking just one day to get it running, she said.

"It's every mother's nightmare when their son goes," Ramos said. "Sheldon raced the same way, and Bobby wanted to follow in his footsteps."

Gouveia may have liked the speed but he had ambition and wanted to learn more about engines. He was attending a 17-month program at Universal Technical School on full scholarship to learn about diesel engines. He planned to finish school, work for a while on the Mainland and return home with a brand new car, said Johanna Ramos.

'MOM, NO WORRY'

The traffic deaths of high school friends earlier this year struck the family hard and got the mother and son talking about taking chances with other people's lives when drinking and speeding but Gouveia said what so many children say.

"Mom, no worry, nothing going happen," she said.

The night of his death she told him not to drink and drive. She told him she loved him and to come home early because she had to work the next day. He told he loved her and left.

At about 3 a.m. Johanna Ramos said she woke up and realized her son was not home. Used to not knowing where he might be, she called his cell phone but got only voicemail. Her other son called from the crash site to tell her.

Ramos said she'll have her son's body cremated after a day of viewing.

"I'm going to bring him home, to be with me," she said. "He won't go nowhere. I'll know where he is all the time after that."

Gouveia is also survived by a brother, Richie Kaaua, and sister, Jenna Seales.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com and Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.