Monday, July 23, 2001

Yesterday, Jonathan Guillaume, above, showed the
Volkswagen van that was wrecked on Pali Highway.

Pali’s slick ride
called treacherous

Runoff at the hairpin turn is
blamed for 4 more accidents
over the weekend

By Rod Antone

Kailua police say there have been 12 car accidents this month, four of which happened this past weekend, because of a slick portion of the Pali Highway. According to police, the problem stems from runoff water flowing across the surface of the highway at the hairpin turn in the Kailua-bound lanes.

"We've been lucky that there's been no fatalities yet, but it's only a matter of time," said Honolulu police officer Larry Santos. "One accident was so severe that an 18-year-old driver flipped his van twice and had to be taken to the hospital. It's a good thing he was wearing his seat belt."

Jonathan Guillaume, the 18-year-old driver in that accident, said he was driving the family's 1979 Volkswagen van and was "slowing down and coming around the turn when my back tires slid out." The accident happened July 11, and according to police reports Guillaume was not speeding.

"It happened so fast, before I could think about anything, it was over," said Guillaume, who was not injured in the accident. "I skidded and flipped twice, and the van landed on the roof."

Santos said there were three accidents on Saturday and one about 9:30 last night. All four involved similar circumstances according to police.

"They were not speeding, they were applying the brakes prior to the turn, and the vehicles fishtailed as they hit the brakes," said Santos. "There is no grip or traction there, and they go skidding like it's a sheet of ice."

Santos said there appears to be some sort of "growth" along the surface of the highway which he describes as a type of slick "film" that he has felt with his hands while investigating accidents there.

"It's some sort of slimy stuff, either moss or algae," Santos said. "Drivers don't see it, and that's why they get caught by surprise."

Other drivers who have lost control near the turn but avoided getting into an accident said it was a close call. Santos said no one has been seriously hurt in the accidents.

"We fishtailed the whole back end out," said Kailua resident Ryan Roth. "This was about two weeks ago. I was driving in the left lane going about 35 miles per hour, and then I was sideways before we knew what happened."

Kailua-bound cars descending Pali Highway at the
hairpin turn yesterday encountered a slippery section
of the road that has been blamed for a number of accidents.

"It's a good thing it was on a Sunday when there wasn't too much traffic around us, otherwise we would have definitely hit somebody."

A "Kokua Line" reader brought up concerns about the slickness of the area in Thursday's edition of the Star-Bulletin. In response, state highways engineer Tom Gabrielli said "the problem is caused by the accumulation of rocks and other debris on the back side of the concrete barrier on the right shoulder."

In the article, Gabrielli also said "this accumulation blocks the normal drainage path," and water instead seeps through the concrete barrier and onto the road. Gabrielli said maintenance crews have been directed to go behind the barrier and remove brush and debris to ensure drainage.

"They put in the work order, and we expect the work to be done soon," Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marilyn Kali said last night.

In the meantime Santos suggests motorists slow down or keep to the left lane at the turn, where the overflow is less. Santos said several Kailua police officers have called to tell the DOT about the problem and have been less than thrilled by the state's response.

"If they put a little effort into it, we could have avoided this weekend's accidents where we shut down the Pali Highway for half an hour," said Santos.

"All we want is for someone to have this cleaned and maintained," said Debra Guillaume, John Guillaume's mother. "Somebody has to do something before someone dies."

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