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Saturday, June 24, 2000

Kipapa crash
stirs longtime worries

Alcohol and speed are not
factors in this week's fatality,
investigators say

By Jaymes K. Song


A week ago, Elena Nerida gave her son Lloyd a crisp $100 bill inside his 21st birthday card to remind him how special he is.

Four days later, Lloyd was driving home to Mililani when his car strayed into oncoming traffic at the Kipapa Gulch bridge on Kamehameha Highway and crashed into a van. He died early Wednesday morning about a mile away from home.

Yesterday, his mother opened the birthday card and discovered the $100 bill untouched. It brought tears to her eyes. "I don't know why," she said, noting Lloyd never drank alcohol. "Why take my son so soon?"

It was the fourth fatal accident in the area since December 1995.

Police traffic investigators are still studying why Nerida traveled into the opposite lane. They said alcohol and speed are not factors.

A man, 54, and a woman, 53, inside the van were injured; the man was released from the hospital and the woman is in fair condition at Kaiser Hospital.

Elena Nerida guesses her son might have fallen asleep or been blinded by oncoming headlights.

Nerida and other Mililani residents voiced worries about the heavily traveled, -mile stretch of the highway surrounding Kipapa Gulch where others have been killed and many injured.

"Anybody who lived here for any amount of time knows it's an extremely dangerous road," said Mililani resident John Norris. "I know several people who got into accidents there."

Richard Poirier, chairman of the Mililani/Waipio/Melemanu neighborhood board, said there has been a "longstanding concern" over that stretch of road.

Motorists complained that the highway, which descends onto a narrow two-lane bridge connecting Waipio and Mililani, has limited visibility, especially at night.

It also has no median or divider, which makes the road vulnerable to head-on collisions.

The past four fatal traffic accidents in the area were caused when a motorist drifted into oncoming lanes.

Norris suggested installing a divider and adding another lane on the roadway, "like a normal road." He also suggested adding a bike path for bicyclists.

Poirier said the state has made some improvements in the area such as building a fence to lessen the danger of rock slides. But the roadway is still dangerous and more needs to be done, he said.

The state Department of Transportation said there are no projects planned for the area.

However, the state will look into the situation if residents submit a letter through the neighborhood board or their legislators, said DOT spokeswoman Marilyn Kali.

Nerida mourns the loss of her son, who worked the late night shift at Kinko's Copies in Pearl City and attended Leeward Community College. He apparently spent time with friends and stopped by work before the accident.

"He's a good young boy, full of energy," Nerida said.

Other fatal accidents

Since 1995, three other accidents on Kamehameha Highway near Kipapa Gulch have ended in death:

Bullet March 1999: Iwalani Ignacio, 23, of Ewa Beach died after being involved in a three-car accident. Ignacio's southbound van veered out of control and sideswiped an oncoming sports-utility vehicle. A third vehicle collided with her van.
Bullet December 1997: Kekaulike Ishikawa, 17, of Mililani died when his car drifted into the path of an oncoming city bus. His car struck a guardrail before hitting another car.
Bullet December 1995: Rachelle Miyashiro, 23, of Kaimuki died when her car crossed the center lane and crashed into another car.

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