Pedestrian killed in Nu'uanu
• Photo gallery: Pedestrian killed on Pali Highway
Roy Shimizu urged his sister many times not to cross Pali Highway. The lights change too quickly, he'd tell her, and the drivers don't slow down.
But Hideno "Harriet" Matsumoto, a retired nurse, was "hard headed," he said.
Yesterday, around 8:50 a.m., Matsumoto, 81, was struck and killed by a 2004 Lexus SUV as she tried to cross the busy highway. Police said they believe that Matsumoto, who lived a block away on Puiwa Street, had just stepped into the left-most, town-bound lane when the SUV hit her.
The driver of the SUV, a 61-year-old woman, told vehicular homicide investigators that she did not see Matsumoto, who was in a marked crosswalk.
Lt. Darren Izumo, who heads the traffic fatality investigation team, said evidence collected at the scene suggests the driver was not speeding, at least not excessively.
Matsumoto wound up on the pavement about 30 to 35 feet away after she was hit with enough force to knock both of her feet out of her pink jogging shoes.
The shoes remained on the pavement while police investigators took measurements of the collision site.
City paramedics treated Matsumoto and rushed her to The Queen's Medical Center, but she died shortly after arriving there, said police Maj. William Chur, head of the Kalihi police district.
Matsumoto was the third traffic death of the year on O'ahu, and the second one involving a pedestrian. That compares with six traffic fatalities at the same time last year.
Shimizu said his sister was "a very kind, very soft-spoken lady," who enjoyed working in her garden, walking her nephew's dog each morning, and taking the occasional trip to Las Vegas.
Matsumoto was born in Häna, Maui, and attended The Queen's Hospital School of Nursing. After graduating, she worked in Chicago for six months, then visited Stamford, Conn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., before returning to Hawai'i.
Matsumoto worked for The Queen's Medical Center and Shriners Hospital before retiring.
Shimizu said his sister was in her 60s when she married Tadashi Matsumoto, a Hawaiian Tuna Packers boat builder who lived directly across the street. When Tadashi Matsumoto died in 2006, she moved back across the street to her former home.
Shimizu believes his sister was on her way to a supermarket Downtown when she was killed.
"Damn drivers," he said. "I don't know why they drive so fast, especially when they get to intersections."
Shimizu said something needs to be done to remedy a dangerous situation that has claimed the lives of numerous elderly pedestrians over the past several years.
He thinks a bridge over the highway would help.
"I'd like to know who the engineers were," he said. "I think they should have their parents try to cross this road. Then they'd understand."
FEW ARE SURPRISED
People who live or work near the stretch of highway where Matsumoto was fatally injured yesterday were saddened but not surprised by the accident.
Few motorists drive at or below the 35 mph speed limit at the intersection of Pali Highway and Dowsett Avenue where Matsumoto was hit, they said.
Though the part of Pali Highway where the crash occurred has long been a safety concern, it was not among the parts of O'ahu shown to have an above-average number of pedestrian accidents in a 2005 Advertiser special report.
The last pedestrian death on Pali Highway in Nu'uanu occurred in January 2008, according to Advertiser records. A 93-year-old man died in that accident when he, too, was struck near Dowsett Avenue, but in the Kailua-bound lanes.
Akiko Baba and husband Hisao live nearby on Wood Street, about two blocks above where Matsumoto was struck.
Yesterday, they stood on the corner of Nuuanu Valley Park, at the corner of Puiwa Street and Pali Highway, surveying the scene.
"Over here, OK, get traffic signal. Over there, no signal, little bit dangerous," Akiko, 75, said as Hisao, who is 83, nodded in agreement.
AWARE OF DANGER
They drove their car to the park to exercise yesterday morning, but occasionally Akiko uses the crosswalk at Puiwa Street.
"Always look very careful and make sure no cars coming," she said.
Hisao said crossing the highway is more dangerous when traffic begins to lighten up, rather than during the morning and afternoon rush-hours.
"When traffic is heavy, everybody slows down. But when it is light, there are more speeders," Hisao said.
The couple has lived in their Nu'uanu home for 35 years and said traffic accidents along the stretch of Pali Highway between the upper and lower Dowsett Avenue intersections are not unusual, although pedestrian fatalities are.
Donna Fass and Danny Reis, who work at the St. Francis Hospice facility on Puiwa Street, said it is easy for drivers, especially in the downhill or town-bound lanes, to lose track of how fast they are going.
With three lanes in each direction, the highway appears wide and not necessarily deadly, Fass said. When she drives to work, she has to make a conscious effort to stay within the speed limit but still finds her speedometer needle creeping past 40 mph.
Reis, meanwhile, said putting a crosswalk at an intersection that lacks traffic signals contributes to the problem.
"They have those bright yellow (pedestrian crossing) signs" near the crosswalk where Matsumoto was hit yesterday, but the signs might not be enough, Reis said.
Chad Taniguchi bicycles through the area several times a week and happened upon the accident scene as paramedics were treating Matsumoto.
"The driver was going from the sunlight into the shadows, but I really think speed is the issue here," said Taniguchi, head of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority. "If you are driving slow enough and really concentrating on your driving, accidents like this shouldn't happen."