Honolulu firefighters surveyed the scene where a van crashed through a wall yesterday at 1835 Halekoa Drive and ended up below in the backyard of 1829 Halekoa Drive. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

Man dies after
van veers off ridge

The steep Halekoa Drive is the
scene of many accidents, residents say

By Treena Shapiro

A man was killed yesterday when the van he was driving veered off the steep mountain road that climbs Waialae Nui ridge in East Honolulu, crashed through a wall and fell 30 feet onto a neighboring lawn.

Art Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Kenison Tejada said the victim was traveling down Halekoa Drive at about 1:35 p.m. when the van went across the upward-bound traffic lane, just missing a garage at 1835 Halekoa and then over the hill.

The victim was ejected from the Chevrolet van, which came to a rest on its side, Tejada said. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. His identity was not released as of last night.

Firefighters searching residences and the nearby hillside found no evidence of passengers, he said.

Neighbors who gathered near the accident scene to watch the investigation said traffic accidents occur frequently in the area. Some residents go door to door to talk to their neighbors about speeding, and someone recently posted a sign on an electrical box that said, "Need traffic cam here."

Although the cause of yesterday's accident has not been determined, Anna Kuhn, who lives three doors down, said that people who saw it said the man was obviously trying to step on his brakes, but they failed him.

Kristen Lozada, 17, said: "If you don't know the hill, there's a lot of surprises. There's so many blind curves going down or coming in."

She said there have been three traffic accidents recently, including a head-on collision that killed two people.

Ron Halsall, who lives about a block up from the accident site, said his house has been hit several times, and someone recently hit a tree in his yard as she was driving up the hill.

At one point, parking was allowed on both sides of the two-lane street, Halsall said.

"It did slow traffic down because you had to wind your way through the parked cars," he said. However, residents lobbied to prohibit parking on one side of the street.

Halsall's neighbor Harvey Gochros said he has lived on Halekoa Drive for 30 years and that it seems like there have been more accidents in the past two years than there were in the previous 20.

"It may be just an impression, but I think it's accurate," he said.

His wife, Jean, said their house has never been hit, but "a couple times, people have ended up on our lawn."

"It's very steep there, and I think people's brakes just give out," she said.

Kuhn said something needs to be done to curb the speeding. "We need speed bumps," she said. "We need something."

Nick Batchelor, 34, said that in the three years he has lived in that neighborhood, he has seen a moving truck that had fallen over on its side, a car flipped upside down and a garage that someone drove through.

"It's a great hill, but the speeding is the concern of all the neighbors," he said.

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