Teen pleads not guilty in crash that killed royalty
Edith Delgado, 18, is charged with manslaughter
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. » An 18-year-old charged with killing two members of the Tongan royal family and their driver in a high-speed crash pleaded not guilty yesterday to vehicular manslaughter.
Edith Delgado was held in lieu of $3 million bail after her arraignment in San Mateo County Superior Court on manslaughter and speeding charges.
Delgado, who received her driver's license in February, was charged with killing Prince Tu'ipelehake, 56, and Princess Kaimana, 46, in the Wednesday night crash on Highway 101 in Menlo Park, about 30 miles south of San Francisco.
Vinisia Hefa, 36, who was driving the red Ford Explorer carrying the prince and princess, also was killed, authorities said.
If convicted, Delgado faces up to eight years in prison on the manslaughter counts, a prosecutor said.
Delgado was driving her Ford Mustang as fast as 100 mph while racing another vehicle when she hit the driver's side of the sport utility vehicle, causing it to swerve across several lanes and roll onto its roof, said California Highway Patrol Officer Ricky Franklin. Delgado was not injured, and the vehicle she was racing was not found.
"My client is very sorry she was involved in this," said defense attorney Randy Moore, who described Delgado as a hard-working honors student and bank teller. "It remains to be determined whether she bears any criminal responsibility for what took place."
The prince and princess had come to the United States to discuss political reforms for the South Pacific island nation with Tongan communities in the Bay area and other parts of the country, said Senter Uhilamoelangi, a distant relative and longtime friend of the prince.
Tu'ipelehake was a nephew of 88-year-old King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, who owns a mansion in Hillsborough, about 15 miles south of San Francisco. Tu'ipelehake was the leading reformist in the royal family and led a national committee studying democratic reforms for the kingdom.
"People are very much concerned, especially the people who are pushing for change," democracy movement leader 'Akilisi Pohiva said from the Tongan capital, Nukualofa. "I think it's a great loss to the country."