Honolulu pedestrian killed by school bus on University Avenue
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer
A 65-year-old woman became the fifth pedestrian killed on Honolulu's streets this year when she was hit by a school bus loaded with children yesterday on University Avenue.
The five pedestrian deaths so far this year is half of the total for all of 2009, which saw a six-year low of 10. That compares with an average of 19 pedestrian deaths annually over the past six years.
All of this year's deaths have occurred in the city's dense urban core and all but one of the victims were over 60 years old.
The identity of the woman killed yesterday was not released by the Honolulu Medical Examiner's office, but residents of the Ala Wai Skyrise apartments at 555 University Ave., which fronted the accident site, confirmed that she lived there.
"I saw her baseball cap lying in the road this morning from my apartment," said John Risk, a resident of the building for 19 years. "I usually see her out running."
The resident manager, Ken Amaral, did not want to identify the woman, deferring to officials.
"I did not know her personally," Amaral said. "The workers say she's a longtime owner, here since back in the '80s. But she was a regular walker."
The driver of the Roberts Hawaii school bus was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, said company spokesman Wally Zimmermann. The driver, a 17-year veteran at Roberts Hawaii, notified her supervisor immediately after the incident and, in accordance with company policy, was taken for drug testing, Zimmermann said.
"The driver was devastated," he said. "She has not been in any serious accidents before."
Passengers on the bus were private school students bound for 'Iolani, Saint Louis and Sacred Hearts. None of them was injured and none of them saw the accident, police said.
The accident occurred in the predawn darkness at 6:35 a.m. in a busy area used by a steady stream of school buses and parents as a loop to drop off students at nearby Ala Wai Elementary School and 'Iolani School.
It is unknown whether the woman was in a nearby crosswalk at the time she was struck, said Honolulu Police Department Lt. David Nilsen. Police closed University Avenue in both directions between Kapi'olani Boulevard and Hīhīwai Street until 11 a.m. while they investigated.
For several hours yesterday the woman's body, covered by a blue tarp, lay wedged under the left rear wheel of the bus.
An athletic shoe and a piece of clothing sat in the rain-slicked lanes of University Avenue as investigators took pictures and talked to witnesses. Parents scurried along the sidewalk next to police barricade tape, ushering their children past the scene to get to school.
Yesterday's fatality showed the need for change on the roads and in government toward safety, said Bruce Bottorff, AARP Hawaii spokesman.
"The early dawn or dusk hours tend to be the most dangerous hours," he said. "You need to make sure you wear light, reflective clothing. It's a complex problem. People have to use common sense and abide by the laws."
The intersection of Kapi'olani and University is one that has long concerned members of the community. Less than a year ago, the city was urged to put up signs in the middle of the road warning of pedestrian crossing and schools nearby, said Ron Lockwood, McCully-Mo-'ili'ili Neighborhood Board chairman.
But nothing has been done yet, Lockwood said.
"That intersection is near two schools and an entrance to a park," he said. "We've been concerned about that intersection for more than seven years. It's a very busy street. People walk down University to get to the park and a lot of people exercise there."