Identity of charred body unknown
WAILUKU » An autopsy was scheduled for today to determine the identity of a man whose rental car plunged more than 270 feet off a cliff and burst into flames yesterday morning in a scenic area of North Maui.
The body was retrieved from the charred white 2005 Chrysler Sebring convertible and flown by helicopter to the morgue at Maui Memorial Medical Center for identification.
Honolulu residents Joe Brown and Dennis Simoncelli, who were sightseeing, said when they arrived in the area in North Maui, they saw fire and police workers at the bottom trying to examine the vehicle.
"It was so far down that the ... people looked really small," Brown said. "You could see it was completely charred."
Simoncelli said there were no guardrails in the area, and the car must have traveled some 50 yards off the road before plunging down the cliff.
Traffic investigator Duke Pua said the area at Nakalele Point is not a designated scenic lookout, but is a dirt shoulder where visitors park their cars and get out to look at the ocean view.
Pua said the vehicle was traveling northwest when it went left and down the cliff.
"Some tourists saw the car tumbling," he said.
Pua said the witnesses called police shortly before 10:30 a.m.
Coroner's physician Dr. Anthony Manoukian said the body was badly burned, and it would take further examination today to determine the identity.
The death was the second incident in less than a year in which a vehicle has fatally plunged over a cliff near an unofficial scenic lookout on Maui.
Denise Callo, 34, and James Makekau, 18, both of Pukalani, died after the vehicle Callo was driving plunged down a 150-foot cliff near the Lahaina pali lookout April 13.
An autopsy later determined that Callo was drunk.
The death at Nakalele is the fifth traffic fatality of the year on Maui, compared with two last year.