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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 9:40 p.m., Sunday, January 21, 2007

Waimanalo crash victims identified; youth arrested

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu police have arrested a 17-year-old male involved in a car crash in Waimanalo Saturday night that left two women dead.

Michelle Benevedes, 39, and Racquel Akau, 38, were pronounced dead at the scene after a white Ford SUV smashed into their car as they were exiting Inoa'ole Street onto Kalaniana'ole Highway.

Benevedes was a Waimanalo resident; Akau had no local address, according to the Honolulu Medical Examiner's office.

Witnesses said the white 1997 Ford Explorer SUV was speeding when it collided with the women's gray1990 Honda Accord.

Some witnesses reported hearing sirens and seeing flashing blue lights shortly before the accident.

Several neighbors reported that the SUV was being chased by police down Kalaniana'ole Highway in the Hawaii Kai direction. However, police said today there was no pursuit prior to the accident.

Residents said they saw as many as three police cars on the scene almost immediately.

The 17-year-old driver of the SUV and the 17-year-old passenger attempted to run from police following the accident, police said.

One witness reported watching the driver of the car run up Inoa'ole Street before being apprehended. The other teen ran in a different direction.

"The two guys went run," said John Bowes, who lives along Inoa'ole Street. "They was all bloody, shirt ripped open."

Bowes said some people in the neighborhood knew the victims, but he did not believe they lived in the neighborhood.

Police said both speed and alcohol were factors in the accident. Both women were pinned in the car. The driver, Benevedes, was wearing a seat belt. Police said they believe Akau was not wearing a seat belt.

"The entire driver's side of the car was smashed," said Erica Mattson, who lives on Inoa'ole Street, and said she heard the crash. The car was pushed up onto the curb by the SUV and pinned to a brick wall, she said.

Naomi Braine, a resident of the Waimanalo neighborhood for more than 30 years, said she knew of Michelle Benevedes but did not know her personally. She said her son was dating Benevedes' cousin.

"I'm so sad for those girls," Braine said. "I was up all night thinking about it. We've had accidents before, but this one is really tragic."

Police closed both lanes of Kalaniana'ole Highway and Inoa'ole Street for five hours Saturday night and early this morning to investigate the crash.

Staff writer Mary Vorsino contributed to this report.