RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
A branch from a shower tree fell yesterday afternoon at the corner of Beretania and Maunakea streets, hitting a car and snarling rush hour traffic for miles.
Accidents create traffic nightmare
Two men are taken to Queen's hospital with severe injuries
Two pedestrians who were critically injured by a truck along Nimitz Highway, and falling tree branches on Beretania Street paralyzed downtown traffic during yesterday's afternoon rush hour.
The traffic jam started about noon when two men hailing a cab were struck by a Chevy Trailblazer along Nimitz Highway downtown.
Police said the taxi driver, a 51-year-old man driving a 2004 Subaru station wagon, collided with the Trailblazer when he switched lanes to pick up the men. Both vehicles were heading Ewa. When the Trailblazer was struck, it jumped onto the mauka sidewalk of Nimitz, plowing into the two men, a fire hydrant and a building.
One of the men suffered massive internal injuries, police said. He was taken in critical condition to the Queen's Medical Center.
The other man was trapped by the right wheel of the Trailblazer and had to be removed by firefighters. He was taken to Queen's in serious condition with leg and hip injuries.
As police traffic investigators worked on the accident investigation, Nimitz traffic backed up and motorists took alternate routes -- creating more traffic problems.
Police Cpl. Kevin Ching said about 10 to 15 fender benders in the immediate area followed the Nimitz accident. "That was the one that started a chain reaction of un-fateful events," Ching said.
Falling tree branches on Beretania Street made matters worse.
At about 2 p.m. a semi-tractor-trailer truck clipped a low-hanging shower tree branch on North Beretania Street just Ewa of the Maunakea Street corner.
The branch fell on two passing cars, pinning an older-model four-door Oldsmobile sedan. Police said the car's roof did not give under the branch's weight, and no one was injured.
The fallen branch shut down three lanes on Beretania for about three hours.
By 5:50 p.m., Midge Freitas and Kathy Gonzales had been stuck for an hour on Queen Street near Alakea Street, after taking their kids to the movies at Restaurant Row, just a few blocks away.
Many commuters had to wait in office building parking garages, some reportedly taking 45 minutes just to get to the street.
"Hopefully we get home by 6:30 p.m.," said Freitas, who lives on Kukui Street.