Thursday, December 9, 1999

Hit and run:
Broken bones,
broken lives

Of 17 hit-and-run cases on
Oahu this year, all but three
remain unsolved

By Rod Ohira


A hit-and-run driver shattered more than Rebecca Perkins' left leg.

Eighteen days after a white Nissan hatchback or station wagon struck her motor scooter at the intersection of Wilder Avenue and Makiki Street, the 27-year-old Perkins lies in her Queen's Hospital bed and weeps often.

A feeling of helplessness has left her distraught.

"She doesn't have control over her life and feels like she's become a burden," said her sister, Jennifer. "Every little thing has become a task for her, and it's taken a toll."

Perkins still cannot get out of bed for more than five minutes at a time without being overcome by dizziness. "It's hard to feel fortunate when you can't even use the bathroom by yourself," she said. "This has taken away my privacy and freedom to do anything."

Detective Letha DeCaires, the Honolulu Police Department's CrimeStoppers coordinator, says the Nov. 21 incident is one of 17 hit-and-run cases this year. All but three remain unsolved.

"The numbers scare me," DeCaires said. "It shows you can literally get away with murder with a car. It's very difficult to recover evidence in these cases. Often there are no eyewitnesses, and victims either cannot remember what happened or are dead."

Perkins had gone to visit friends in Makiki after work.

"I can remember riding my scooter on Wilder Avenue heading toward Piikoi Street," she said. "I saw a car with its turn signal on, and it just turned. The next thing I remember is a police officer holding me."

The collision occurred shortly before midnight, and there were no witnesses, police said.

Perkins' shin and knee were shattered. She also had two broken toes, a thigh fracture, and doctors recently performed corrective hip surgery. Her sister said an ankle "was turned 360 degrees." Doctors have placed titanium rods in Perkins' leg. The prognosis for recovery is good, but the rehabilitation period may be lengthy.

"There's feeling but it's a weird sensation, like tingling," she said. Perkins said she "cannot possibly imagine how anyone could injure someone and then leave them in the street."

"Anyone can make a mistake," she said. "But it's one thing to run somebody down and another to leave someone just lying there on the street."

DeCaires said victims in failure-to-render-aid cases are also burdened by hidden costs.

"In addition to suffering pain, they've got to pay their own medical and vehicle repair costs and cannot work," the detective said.

Mike Keany of Maui also is hospitalized at Queen's, near Perkins' room.

Keany was driving a motorcycle Sunday that struck a van that suddenly stopped in the middle of an intersection in Kihei.

The driver of the van remained at the scene but told his passenger to flee with the vehicle, said Frank Kwiatkowski, who was a passenger on Keany's motorcycle. "He told the guy to leave because the van was illegal and had no insurance," Kwiatkowski said.

Beverly Keany, Mike's mother, said Maui police told her the driver of the van was drunk.

"Drunk driving and driving with no insurance are common on Maui, where there's no public transportation," she said. "There are a lot of hit-and-run cases."

On Oahu, DeCaires would like to see a reporting system involving auto repair and paint shops, similar to the one being used now for child abuse cases under which emergency hospital personnel are mandated to report suspected abuse injuries.

The car that injured Perkins left the scene with a shattered left front headlight and possibly tiny pieces of flesh or body tissue on it, said DeCaires. It's something somebody might have noticed and could have reported as suspicious, she said.

The most recent Oahu hit-and-run case occurred in Waianae Tuesday when a maroon foreign compact car struck an 80-year-old woman walking on Farrington Highway near her Moua Street home at 6:12 a.m.

The suspect car may have windshield and hood damage on the left side, police said. The woman is in guarded condition.

Anyone with information about any hit-and-run cases is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 955-8300 or police vehicular homicide investigators at 529-3499.

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