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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2010

Kaimukī senior excited for prom


By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kaimukī High student Sam Lewis wore a black ribbon in memory of senior Melissa Miranda, who died Friday.

NORMAN SHAPIRO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Melissa Miranda

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The day before she was killed and five other Kaimukī High School students seriously injured when the pickup truck they were in lost control and overturned, Melissa Miranda was singing with classmates at a graduation rehearsal and excitedly telling friends about the dress she had bought for prom.

Brandee Florino said the last time she saw the 18-year-old, at the graduation rehearsal Thursday, Miranda was doing something she did a lot: laughing.

"She was the greatest girl," said Florino, a Kaimukī High senior.

Miranda and five others were in the back of the pickup truck when it crashed early Friday in Kalaeloa, ejecting all of them. Police said Miranda was pronounced dead at the scene, and a 17-year-old girl was critically injured. Four others were seriously injured, including the driver.

In all, there were eight Kaimukī High students in the pickup.

The driver, Bethany Robert, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree negligent homicide, which means police believe she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Police said yesterday that toxicology tests on the driver are pending.

Friends said yesterday that Miranda's death has cast a pall over celebrations for the end of the school year, while advocates said the crash is a sobering reminder of the dangers of negligent teen driving.

"This is going to forever mar this very exciting, celebratory type of milestone in these young people's lives," said Carol McNamee, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving-Hawai'i. "How horrible for these parents."

The crash happened at 1:30 a.m., when the truck was heading east on Roosevelt Avenue and the driver apparently lost control. The pickup then overturned.

Miranda's death was the second on O'ahu this year of a young person thrown from a pickup truck bed. A 13-year-old Waimānalo boy was killed in March when he was thrown from a pickup bed on Kalaniana'ole Highway.

Yesterday, Miranda's friends remembered the teen as outgoing and bubbly. On www.Facebook.com, they had set up a tribute page where people could leave messages.

"Every time I had a problem, she was always there for me," one poster said. Another note read, "I just talked to you on Thursday."

The friend who set up the page wrote, "She didn't deserve this."

Kaimukī's senior prom is Saturday, and commencement is May 23.

Friends say Miranda will undoubtedly be remembered at those events, which she was so looking forward to. She'll also be remembered at a sunrise ceremony tomorrow at Kaimukī High School, where counselors are expected to help students deal with their grief. And tomorrow and Tuesday, friends plan to remember Miranda by wearing yellow her favorite color.

Miranda's family has asked for their privacy, and their attorney James Leavitt said it was too early to talk about the circumstances that led up to the crash.

"They're trying to deal with their grief and mourning," he said.