A 56-year-old Kalihi man, driving the wrong way at high speed on the H-1 Freeway, caused a multiple-car crash this morning that closed down all the highway's Koko Head-bound lanes during the rush hour, police said.
At least four people, including a pregnant woman, were taken to local hospitals.
Police received a call just before 5 a.m. about a car traveling 80 to 90 miles an hour -- in the wrong direction -- on the freeway. About a minute later, a major crash was reported near the Ward Avenue overpass.
"I was going eastbound to work and I saw a car coming toward us in our direction," said Raymond Padello, who was driving his pickup truck from his home in Mililani to his job in Waikiki. "I tried to avoid him and get out of the way. But he hit me."
Padello said he was shaken up but not injured. The front left corner of his truck was damaged.
The wrong-way driver's car collided head-on with a silver domestic sedan. A police officer said the pregnant woman was in the sedan. Five other vehicles, including Padello's truck, received minor damage.
Police said the wrong-way driver was taken to Queen's Hospital in critical condition. Two other men, 53 and 58, also at Queen's, were in fair condition this morning, hospital officials said.
The pregnant woman was taken to Kapiolani Hospital. Her condition was not available.
The wrong-way driver first was spotted at Kapiolani Hospital several minutes before the crash, when a man and woman reported their car was rear-ended by a man driving a red Chevrolet sedan.
When confronted about the incident, he brandished a knife in one hand and a crucifix in the other, police said. A short time later, a security guard asked the man to move his car so it would not block a driveway, and he again allegedly pulled a knife and crucifix, then drove off the hospital grounds.
He entered the freeway on the Punahou Street exit and headed Ewa in the Koko-Head bound lanes of H-1, police said.
All Koko Head-bound lanes on the freeway were closed, and traffic was routed off the freeway on the Kinau Street offramp and detoured back on at Piikoi Street. The accident backed up traffic to Kalihi. Ewa-bound traffic was also bumper-to-bumper to Kahala Mall as onlookers slowed to see what was going on.
All lanes were opened at 8 a.m. after police examined the scene and fire crews cleared the debris and oil which spilled across the the roadway.
No arrests were made this morning.
Jeff Childs, who lives next to the freeway, was sleeping when he heard a couple of bangs, then a loud crash. He said this is one reason he hasn't driven since 1984. The retiree prefers taking The Bus.
"I can get anywhere, and I'm safe."