Sunday, August 5, 2001

Workers assessed the damage to a power line yesterday after
a fatal car accident on Kamehameha Highway near Sam's Club.

2 die in Pearl City
car crash

The early morning crash also
toppled a utility pole, cutting
power to 1,100

By Lisa Asato

Two people died yesterday in an early morning accident near Sam's Club in Pearl City after the car they were in severed a wooden utility pole, rammed rear-first into a concrete wall and came to rest in an unused office.

The driver of the 1997 Chevy Tahoe was a 29-year-old Pearl City man, whose identity was not released. His passenger, who was ejected from the car, was Merliza Vitolo, 33, of Ewa Beach. Both were dead when police arrived shortly after the 12:55 a.m. accident.

The driver of the other car, a 32-year-old Aiea woman, was shaken but unhurt, police said.

The two fatalities are Oahu's 44th and 45th, compared to 39 at this time last year.

"From what I know, (the driver) just killed my wife and left me and my two kids alone," said Paul Vitolo. "My kids are crazy right now," he said, referring to their daughter, 12, and son, 13.

Vitolo said his wife and the driver both worked for the Handi-Van. She was a reservationist and dispatcher, he said.

Handi-Van confirmed that both were employees but declined further comment.

Traffic was jammed hours later as Hawaiian Electric Co. crews worked to replace two poles and repair wiring. All three Ewa-bound lanes of Kamehameha Highway from Waimano Home Road to Kuala Street were closed at one of Pearl City's busiest commercial hubs, but officials hoped to open all lanes last night or this morning.

Traffic was tied up at the intersection of Kamehameha Highway and
Waimano Home Road in Pearl City yesterday due to an early
morning car accident.

Witnesses told police the driver of the Tahoe was "blasting through red lights" as it traveled Ewa-bound down Kamehameha, said acting Sgt. Jimmy Goeas of the Traffic Division.

The Tahoe hit the rear of another car as it turned left onto Kamehameha from Acacia Road, spinning the car around. The Tahoe veered into a curb, flew into a wooden utility pole and rammed a corner office under construction in the Pearl Highlands Center at 1000 Kamehameha Highway, Goeas said.

Goeas did not want to speculate how fast the driver of the Tahoe was going, except to say that it was traveling "in excess of 35 miles an hour," the posted speed limit.

Hawaiian Electric expected repair work to be done by early this morning, said spokeswoman Lynne Unemori. "The lanes should be opened at that point," she said.

Unemori said it would take a longer to install new underground cables and connect them to overhead lines.

Unemori said electricity was cut off to about 1,100 customers, and all except the Pearl City Post Office were restored by 5:20 a.m.

Sandi Arakaki, post office customer service supervisor, said yesterday afternoon that "all the mail has gone out and there was no stoppage or delivery impact." She said customers were still able to pick up mail but all monetary transactions were stopped because the computers were down.

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