IN COURT, WIFE BLAMES HERSELF FOR H-1 CRASH
Wife who lost arm takes blame for Honolulu freeway crash
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Jim Dooley
A woman who lost her arm in a traffic accident last year blamed herself for the wreck in court testimony yesterday, saying she was driving drunk, speeding and punching her husband on the arm and chest just before the crash.
That testimony contradicted earlier accounts of the crash given by Lise Solomua Alatini to a paramedic and doctor.
Her husband, Iovani Alatini, is on trial in Circuit Court, charged with second-degree assault.
Wearing a long-sleeved top that obscured her missing limb, Lise Alatini wept repeatedly during her testimony and regularly paused to compose herself.
Her husband also cried during her testimony and, during breaks in the proceedings, the couple sat together on a bench outside the courtroom and appeared to console each other.
Alatini said she began arguing with her husband when they began to drive home to Waipahu after a five-hour stay at a picnic at Magic Island. She admitted she drank beer throughout the day at the picnic and brought two beers in the car while driving home, drinking one of them before the 8 p.m. crash on H-1 Freeway near the airport.
She said she was upset at him because "he spent his whole time (at the picnic) talking to his co-workers and a female."
During the drive home, "We were arguing about how I don't let him hang out with his friends," she said.
She admitted, under questioning from defense attorney Marcus Landsberg, that she was speeding on Ala Moana boulevard and later on the freeway, weaving through lanes of traffic.
"You were yelling, smoking, drinking, swearing and cutting in and out of lanes of traffic?" Landsberg said.
"Yes," Alatini answered.
She said her husband was yelling at her to slow down and at one point asked her to stop the car and let him out.
"What was your response?" Landsberg asked.
"Shut the (expletive) up," she said.
"I was really pissed," she added.
At one point, Iovani Alatini pounded the dashboard with his fist and then kicked a DVD console in the dashboard, Lise Alatini testified.
His foot "slipped" and hit her right hand on the steering wheel, causing the car to swerve before she regained control of it, she said.
"Then I started hitting him," she testified, saying that she punched him repeatedly and lost track of where the vehicle was going.
He told her to "watch out" and when she looked back at the road, the car was about to crash into the median divider in the center of the highway.
The vehicle smashed into the divider, then flipped over three or four times back across the freeway, coming to rest driver's side down, facing oncoming traffic, on the side of the road.
Lise Alatini's left arm had been severed between the shoulder and elbow.
Her husband suffered minor scrapes in the accident and got out of the car through the broken windshield.
"I told him, 'Help me.' He told me to hold on," she said.
"I told him, 'I'm trying to find my arm,' " she said.
Paramedic Gabriel Sasaki testified that when he arrived at the scene and began assessing the woman's injuries, she was calm and composed.
When he asked her what had happened, she said she "had been in an argument and that the male party had kicked the steering wheel and she had lost control of the car."
The doctor who treated her at The Queen's Medical Center, Frederick Yost, delivered similar testimony in the trial Monday.
Alatini said her memory of what she told the paramedic and doctor was hazy, saying that she was "in and out of consciousness" and "heavily sedated."
Her uncle, U.S. probation officer Tarama Fuatagari, testified that when he went to the hospital that night, Iovani Alatini told him that the couple had been arguing in the car before the accident.
"Lise said something that pissed him off. He kicked the steering wheel," Fuatagari said Alatini told him.
Lise Alatini testified that Fuatagari has never liked Alatini because he is Tongan. She and her uncle are Samoans and Samoans and Tongans have a long history of mutual animosity, she said.
Reach Jim Dooley at firstname.lastname@example.org.