Driver of Honolulu runaway truck veers out of traffic before crash
Tragedy was averted yesterday when a driver managed to maneuver his dump truck down the town-bound lanes of Pali Highway, avoid a long line of cars and veer cleanly across the lanes on the opposite side of the road before crashing into the garage of a home near the corner of Kuakini Street.
Ferdinand Endo was asleep inside the home at 1765 Pali Highway when the big dump truck came crashing in.
"All I know was that I was sleeping and I heard this huge bang," Endo said. "My ex-wife was up, but she was in the back of the house.
"I ran out and the driver was already out of the truck yelling, 'Are you OK? Is everybody OK? Is anybody hurt?'
"He was a young local guy, about 35 or 40, and he was very concerned. He may have been in a state of shock. He was really shook up and I kept telling him, 'No worry, brah, no worry, everybody's OK.' "
Aside from the driver, no one was hurt in the incident.
Police officers at the scene were amazed at the driver's ability to keep a bad situation from turning deadly.
"This whole thing could have been worse, much, much worse," said police Sgt. Glenn Viloria.
The driver was quickly taken to a hospital. Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the city Emergency Services Department, said the driver was listed in serious condition upon his arrival.
From what police were able to piece together without talking with the driver in depth, the truck — loaded with asphalt — was headed toward town about 9 a.m. when the brakes failed much farther up the highway.
There are no "runaway truck" ramps along the downhill lanes of Pali Highway on the Honolulu side of the tunnels as there are on the windward side. So the driver's options were limited.
He was able to keep control of the truck until the bottom of the grade where he rolled up on the School Street intersection and long lines of cars, remnants of morning rush-hour traffic.
"Apparently, he chose the lesser of two evils," said one of the police officers at the scene. "He could have rear-ended that whole line of cars and maybe killed himself or others, or he could veer into the hedge on the medial strip to scrub off some speed and continue on across into the oncoming lanes, which were pretty empty at the time."
The driver went with the hedge option, ripping out 30 to 50 yards of vegetation before the truck crossed into the Kailua-bound lanes.
After crossing the road, the truck took out two hollow-tile walls, demolished Endo's garage and destroyed the 1994 Toyota Celica that was parked inside.
Yesterday morning, police had not determined if the driver deliberately steered at Endo's garage, ending up almost in the middle of the driveway. They could not say how fast the truck was going when it crashed into the garage.
Tampos Trucking Inc. was emblazoned in gold lettering on the truck door, and Endo said he expects the company's insurance firm to pay for the damage to his home and car.
"I just put a new engine, new computer, new air conditioning, everything in that car," he said. "Now, it looks like I'll be riding the bus for a while. The whole car thing gives me one mean head-ache."
According to state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs records, the Waipahu-based Tampos Trucking Inc. is registered to Aaron Tampos and is involved in "trucking, hauling of aggregate dirt and rocks." U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data indicates that the company operates two trucks and employs two drivers.
The company's listed phone number has been disconnected. Aaron Tampos answered a call to his mobile phone, but the connection was abruptly cut when the caller identified himself as an Advertiser reporter. Subsequent calls were not answered.
The Honolulu Police Department and state Department of Transportation will now conduct separate investigations of the accident.
A large tow truck showed up about 45 minutes after the crash and began to winch the dump truck out of what was left of Endo's shattered garage.
Endo stood on the sidewalk in front of his house, amazed at his good fortune.
"I say I'm lucky because I wasn't hurt, my ex-wife wasn't hurt and the driver was real shaken up, but from what I could tell, he wasn't too badly injured either," he said.
Endo's garage was demolished, but he said he was planning to tear it down and build a new one anyway.
"I guess I'll just have to get going on the project a little sooner than I had counted on," he said.