Nanakuli crash kills 2, hospitalizes 5
|Photo gallery: Fatal accident in Nanakuli|
NANAKULI — A pickup truck roared down Farrington Highway toward Honolulu on Thursday night, weaving in and out of traffic just before it set off a chain reaction of collisions that ended in death for both the driver and a 3-year-old traveling in the opposite direction, witnesses said yesterday.
Five other people were hospitalized.
Rowena Cintron was standing on the beach around 10:20 p.m. when she saw the black 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup strike another Honolulu-bound car, bounce off a guard rail on the right side of Farrington Highway, shoot across two lanes of traffic like a pinball, then slice off the driver's side of a 2001 white Volkswagen Jetta, sending the Jetta spinning into a parked car near Hakimo Road.
"I seen the truck coming and it was really moving," Cintron said. "It was cutting in and out of cars. Then, when it was right in front (of me) it went — bang — and hit one car. Then he lost control and hit this rail over here and then went shooting over onto the left-hand side of the road and hit the oncoming car head-on."
Three-year-old Koa-Paka Miles of Wai'anae was in his infant car seat in the Jetta behind his father, Camu Miles, who was driving. During one of the collisions, Koa-Paka was ejected from the damaged car and landed on a neighbor's driveway, still strapped to his car seat, said Koa-Paka's uncle, Mel Cansibog.
Koa-Paka was pronounced dead at The Queen's Medical Center.
In the Jetta, Koa-Paka's mother — 21-year-old Erika Miles — was riding in the backseat, Cansibog said. Erika sat between Koa-Paka and his 1-year-old sister, Kaohulani, Cansibog said.
A 37-year-old female friend of Erika's sat in the front passenger seat, Cansibog said.
Everyone in the car was taken to Queen's.
"Everybody's pretty much stable," Cansibog said. "The baby's fine. ... The parents are still in the hospital."
Cansibog and his wife, Yvonne — who is Camu Miles' sister — arrived at the scene of the crash five minutes later, Cansibog said.
"My brother-in-law would never drive anywhere without the babies in their car seats," Cansibog said. "When the truck tore into the side of the car, the car seat got wrenched right out. The baby was still in the car seat and the car seat was on the ground, in a driveway."
Fred Calleon, who owns the parked 1994 gold Nissan Maxima that the Jetta hit, ran outside of his house and saw a child's restraining seat face-down on the corner of his driveway.
"I saw a baby seat, and I saw legs," Calleon said. "To be honest, I thought it was a doll. But I lifted up the seat and I could see it was a baby and it wasn't responding."
The driver staggered out of the Jetta "and he was saying, 'Where's my son? Where's my son?'" Calleon said. "And I said, 'Over here.'"
At one point, Calleon saw the father carrying the baby saying, "'Hold on, don't leave me.'"
The baby's mother emerged from the Jetta, bloodied, dazed and in a panic.
"She was crying and shouting, 'My babies! My babies!' " Calleon said.
Jo-Ann DeMotto, Calleon's next-door neighbor, trembled as she recalled the scene of the mother and her bloodied head.
"She kept screaming and screaming and screaming and her husband asked me if I could take her in myself and have her cleaned up," DeMotto said.
As she took care of Erika Miles, DeMotto learned about another recent family tragedy.
"The really sad part about this is on Saturday, he (Camu Miles) loses his dad," DeMotto said. "Then he loses his son. My heart really goes out to these folks."
SERIES OF LOUD BOOMS
Yesterday, an impromptu memorial at the scene included balloons, flowers and a note on a balloon that read, "We Love You Koa-Paka Miles."
It sat just a few yards from where the pickup truck hit a tree and a hollow-tile wall and flipped over, landing upside down on a gold, 1996 Cadillac SLS parked in a carport at 87-1468 Farrington Highway.
Everyone who saw or heard the collisions described a series of overwhelming booms.
"All of a sudden I heard a boom, boom, boom, boom," said Cherylann Aholelei, whose daughter owns the Cadillac. "And I said, 'Oh my gosh. There's a big accident outside.'"
The last — and loudest — boom occurred when the truck landed on top of the Cadillac.
The driver of the pickup, 25-year-old Sanford Valdez of Wai'anae, was not wearing a seat belt, said Sgt. John Agno of the Honolulu Police Department's vehicular homicide unit.
Valdez was ejected from the truck and his head hit a concrete base of a fire hydrant. He was pronounced dead at the scene of head injuries at 11:13 p.m., said Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the city's emergency services department.
Valdez had been driving "at a high rate of speed" when he lost control of the pickup, said Lt. Darren Izumo of the police vehicular homicide unit.
"We know speed was a factor because parts of the Jetta are like 'shrink-wrapped' around the front end of the truck," Izumo said.
The remains of what appear to be broken Heineken beer bottles were discovered in the pickup truck, Izumo said, but police are still investigating whether alcohol or drugs were involved.
"At this point, we can't say for sure," Izumo said. "Definitely speed was a factor, though."
The small memorial at the site of Valdez's death included balloons, flowers and a partially full bottle of Heineken.
A family member who declined to be identified said Valdez is the father of two children.
At one point, he had worked at a couple of auto body paint shops on O'ahu, according to one of his former bosses, who asked not to be identified.
Valdez, his mother, Carmelita, and his two sisters used to live with Miles Tsutsui in Tsutsui's Kapolei home until Carmelita and Tsutsui broke up in 2001.
Valdez attended high school in Kansas and "was a good guy, a real good guy," Tsutsui said.
The passenger in Valdez's truck Thursday night — a 28-year-old woman from Waipahu — was wearing a seat belt, police said. She was trapped inside the truck until firefighters removed her.
She was taken to The Queen's Medical Center in good condition with minor injuries, Agno said.
Right after the crash, Aholelei ran out of her house and found Valdez lying in a pool of blood next to her yard and heard Valdez's passenger trapped inside the truck.
"She was screaming, 'Help me! Help me! Somebody help me get out!'" Aholelei said. "She kept asking, how was her friend. But we didn't want to tell her that he had already died. We just said, 'He's not doing too good.'"
Crissy Salausa lives in the house where the overturned truck came to rest and was told that the occupants of the pickup had just come from a party.
A man who showed up later at the crash scene identified himself as the dead man's uncle and said the gathering was"more like a barbecue — not a big party."
Madardo Faeldonea, who lives two doors down from the crash site, called the stretch of highway particularly deadly.
"Last year, somebody die in front of my house," he said. "Two years ago, somebody hit that pole and died," he said, gesturing to a utility pole at the corner of Akowai Road and Farrington.
"Get plenty accidents this side," Faeldonea said, shaking his head.
Two years ago, in response to residents' concerns, state Department of Transportation officials installed a concrete barrier in the middle of Farrington Highway similar to the H-1 Zipper links.
The pickup truck in Thursday's crash crossed Farrington just after the barrier ends, said Brennon Morioka, state transportation director.
"The zip barrier actually ends just west of the Hakimo intersection," Morioka said. "It may be considered a freak accident. But to us it highlights the importance of people to make the right decisions when driving. You not only put your own life at risk, but risk the lives of everyone else on the road."
Staff writer David Waite contributed to this report.