Crash kills ex-NFL player from Big Island


POSTED: Sunday, September 06, 2009

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. » Former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona has died after being involved in a car accident. He was 26.

Agent Chad Speck said Mahelona died early yesterday morning after being involved in an accident about a mile from his home in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Police yesterday identified Mahelona as the driver of a 1996 Honda sedan. The car went off Kealakehe Parkway and struck some construction equipment around 1 a.m. in Kailua-Kona.

Firefighters who responded to the accident found the vehicle with its roof torn off.

Police say Mahelona was not wearing his seat belt and flew out of his car.

Police believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.

; Mahelona was drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL draft by the Titans, where he played in 10 games as a rookie. He also spent time with the Miami Dolphins before playing his last NFL game with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007.

In two seasons at the University of Tennessee, he had 77 tackles and seven sacks.

A 2001 graduate of Kealakehe High School, Mahelona is survived by his wife, Brandi, who is pregnant with the couple's second child. Speck said there were plans for a fund to support Mahelona's family.

“;He always had a smile on his face,”; Speck said. “;He was just a fun-loving guy that seemed to love life. I'm going to definitely miss that. It is a huge loss.”;

Titans linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who was drafted the same year as Mahelona, mourned his former teammate's death on his Twitter account.

“;I just lost a great friend and former teammate of mine in Jesse Mahelona ... You'll be missed my brother ... Hang Loose,”; he wrote.