Big Island collision kills 5, injures 2
The head-on crash is still under investigation; Volcanoes Park rangers say the road is not particularly dangerous there
Five people died on the Big Island late Friday in a traffic accident that also left two others injured, including one in critical condition, officials said yesterday.
The three-car accident happened about 10 p.m. by the 28-mile marker on Highway 11, which was closed for about five hours near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park's Hilo entrance.
A car driven by a man and carrying two female passengers was heading toward Ka'u when it collided with two cars traveling in the opposite direction, according to the national park. All three people in the Ka'u-bound car died, as well as a man and a woman who were in the first car that got hit.
BIG ISLAND DEATHS
Traffic-related deaths on Big Island, with 2006 statistics as of yesterday:
2006 - 30
2005 - 36
2004 - 41
2003 - 35
Source: Hawaii Police Department
The man driving the second Hilo-bound car was taken by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center and then flown to the Queen's Medical Center. His male passenger, slightly injured, declined medical treatment and was released at the scene.
Fire officials said they responded to an alarm at 10:07 p.m. and that two sedans and one sport utility vehicle were involved in the crash. Identities of the victims were not released. Autopsies are scheduled for this week.
The accident came a day after the Honolulu Police Department announced plans to curb traffic-related deaths caused by speeding on Oahu. The effort, which began Thursday night, placed more officers on the lookout for speeders at undisclosed locations and times. There have been no major traffic accidents or fatalities since then, police said yesterday.
So far, 82 traffic-related fatalities have occurred on Oahu this year, compared with 66 traffic-related deaths at the same time last year. The number of traffic-related deaths is the highest it has been since 1995, when 85 deaths occurred.
On the Big Island, there were 36 traffic fatalities last year, down from 41 in 2004. So far this year, there have been 30 traffic fatalities on the county, the same number recorded at this time last year, said Sgt. Christopher Gali of the Department's Traffic Enforcement Unit.
The five people who died Friday were not added to police traffic statistics because the accident happened under park jurisdiction, he said.
Gali said the police force has no plans to create a task force like the one launched on Oahu, saying that officers work to reduce speeding every day.
It is unclear if excessive speed or alcohol contributed to Friday's crash. Last night, park rangers were being assisted in the accident investigation by Hawaii police, said ranger Mardie Lane.
The highway, which runs through the national park, is not known to be dangerous, Lane said.
"There are a couple curves there, but it is navigated every day by thousands of people," she said. "I wouldn't say there haven't been accidents there in the past, but I don't think any that involved a five-person fatality."
It was the park's first traffic fatalities of the year.