KULA - Five people were killed Sunday morning after the Dodge Neon sedan they were riding in collided with an oncoming car and split in half along Kula Highway, police said.
Lt. Wayne Ibarra said the five people were passengers in the Neon and had been ejected from the car upon impact. Four of the five killed, three males and one female, died at the scene. A male later died while being taken by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center, Ibarra said.
The driver of the 1998 blue Neon, a 21-year-old man from Pukalani, was the lone survivor of those in the Neon. Police said Sunday evening that he was in stable condition at the hospital. Police did not release his name.
Maui police officer Keith Taguma moves cones for a Maui Tow & Transport Co. truck carrying a mangled Dodge Neon from the scene of a two-car collision along Kula Highway on Sunday.
The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo
Those killed were 20-year-old Remington Taylor Redwell of Lahaina; Steven R. Shaw, 20, of Lahaina; Annastachia Cruz-Kalua, 19, of Pukalani; Ambrose Momoa, 20, of Waiehu; and Karl Barrack, 20, of Pukalani.
Barrack died while being taken to the hospital.
A University of Hawaii Maui College official said Sunday night that school officials were checking initial reports that at least two of the five who died were from the college's culinary program.
Three occupants of the other vehicle, a 2003 Suzuki Aerio four-door sedan, were initially taken to the hospital in serious condition. The occupants are all from Pukalani. By Sunday evening, the 46-year-old male driver of the Suzuki had been treated and released. His front-seat passenger and wife, a 47-year-old woman, was also treated and released. The back-seat passenger, a 55-year-old woman, remained in the hospital in stable condition. Police did not release their names.
The accident occurred on Kula Highway near Noholoa Street around 6:30 a.m., Ibarra said. He added that police suspect speed and alcohol to be factors in the crash. Police are also investigating the possibility of drugs being involved.
Police said that the Neon was believed to be speeding while traveling north on Kula Highway. The driver lost control and the Neon began to spin counterclockwise. The car then crossed over the double solid yellow lines separating opposing traffic and collided with the Suzuki.
The Suzuki, which was traveling south, came to rest on the south shoulder of Kula Highway, facing north.
The collision sheered the Neon in half, police said. The front half of the Neon came to rest along the guardrail. The rear half of the car came to rest in a brush area on the west shoulder of Kula Highway. The two parts of the car were about 185 feet apart.
Only the driver of the Neon was wearing his seat belt. All five passengers were not wearing seat belts.
The driver and front-seat passenger of the Suzuki were also wearing their seat belts. The rear-seat passenger was not using a seat belt.
Nearby resident Sally Keanini, who wasn't at home at the time of the accident but saw the crash scene while she waited for police to open the road and allow her to go back home, said: "I couldn't believe I seen that. It was the first mean accident I seen at my place."
Keanini said bodies were scattered in the area, including one along a guardrail.
She said one car was split "right in half" and another "was all smash in the front."
Police closed the highway between Noholoa Street and Hoopalua Drive for around six hours as they investigated the scene. Traffic was diverted onto Lower Kula Road.
As tow trucks removed the cars from the scene, the blue Dodge Neon was seen split in half while the blue Suzuki suffered tremendous front-end damage from the incident. Two coroner's vehicles also left the scene as the tow trucks moved away.
Keanini said speeding is a big problem in the area and urged drivers to slow down.
"I don't know why they're speeding and raising hell on the road, no reason," she added.
Sunday's collision brings the number of traffic fatalities in Maui County to 10 this year compared to three at the same time last year.
The latest traffic fatalities follow a double fatality March 18, when two Wailuku residents died on a Maui roadway as they participated in an organized St. Patrick's Day motorcycle rally.
The victims were Abel Ventura Jr., 58, and Marlene Debnam, 56, who were riding separate motorcycles.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.