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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, October 16, 2000

Death claims another Diana

THE similarities are haunting. Two young women named Dana. Both going home with no realization they'd never make it. Each with a profound appreciation for the islands because she saw them as a beautiful, serene, safe place.

Not that safe.

On Dec. 24, 1991, 23-year-old Dana Ireland was riding her bike near a Big Island surfing area called "Shacks" in the middle of the afternoon. She was heading back to Kapoho after inviting her boyfriend, who lived in Opihikao, to Christmas Eve dinner with her family.

The vivacious Virginia transplant loved the outdoors and people of Hawaii. Imagine how great Ireland must have felt as she pedaled along -- basking in the sunshine, thinking about her sweetheart and her idyllic existence in paradise.

Hours later, she was found raped, beaten and incoherent in secluded Waawaa.

Dana Ireland died that night at the hospital. According to her death certificate, she had multiple trauma injuries caused by a "motor vehicle accident."

That was in 1991. This is the year 2000.

On Oct. 7, 2000, 19-year-old Dana Ambrose was driving her Honda Civic toward the intersection of Pali Highway and School Street just before midnight. She was heading back to Haleiwa after finishing her 6-11 p.m. food service shift at Brew Moon.

Like the other Dana, Ambrose was beautiful inside and out. Imagine how great the recent California transplant must have felt as she motored along _ perhaps thinking about her just-awarded scholarship to the University of Hawaii, where she would enroll in January.

Hours later, she was in the morgue.

Ambrose died that night at the hospital, from extensive multiple injuries, after her car was broadsided by a Ford Thunderbird driven by Clyde S. Arakawa, an off-duty Honolulu police officer.

The deaths of the two Danas are totally different, some might argue vehemently.

Dana Ireland was purposely run over by a car, kidnapped, raped, beaten and then thrown into a desolate area to die. Her two assailants were convicted but are appealing their life sentences.

Meanwhile, Dana Ambrose was in a traffic accident. It was just one of those horrible things that couldn't have been predicted or prevented.

THEN why are so many members of the public just as incensed about the Ambrose case as they were over the Ireland crime? Maybe because:

Bullet Arakawa initially refused to take a Breathalyzer sobriety test or to provide a blood sample to determine his blood-alcohol level. According to police reports, he was reeking of alcohol and displaying other symptoms of inebriation.

Bullet He was allowed to roam the accident scene, have a cop call his attorney and relay the lawyer's advice to him, and was filmed by one TV station with his arm around a fellow officer, who patted him reassuredly on the back in return.

Bullet He was involved in a trespassing incident a few years ago in which the victim claims Arakawa was drunk and received preferential treatment from police.

Officers monitor us in their mandate to keep the peace. But, if not other police, then who is monitoring them?

It took the Ireland family nine excruciatingly long years before they got some semblance of justice for their Dana. Nobody wants the Ambrose clan to go through that same wringer of trauma.

They've been through enough agony already. So have both Danas. So have we all.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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