2019 has brought spate of fatalities on county roads

Police unable to speculate reason for so many deaths

WAILUKU — With Maui County at 11 traffic fatalities so far this year — compared to the four at this same time last year — Maui police said that both drivers and pedestrians need to remain mindful while on the road, especially the late evening and early morning hours.

“The public should just take common sense precautions, such as wearing bright-colored clothing at night or carrying a light when walking on the roadway, which should be restricted to the sidewalk or shoulder,” Maui police spokesman Lt. Gregg Okamoto said. “For drivers, just stay vigilant and drive defensively and don’t drink and drive. This should apply during all hours, night or day.”

Assistant Police Chief John Jakubczak added that ultimately it’s up to the public to make good decisions on the road.

“It comes to a point where the public has to adhere to the traffic section,” Jakubczak said during a Maui County Police Commission meeting a few days after a 19-year-old Wailuku woman was killed in a car crash on Kuihelani Highway. “People have to be responsible for their actions and unfortunately, their actions affect other people. And again, it’s a tragedy. We’ll still be out there, but it comes to a point where the public has to do their part.”

Hannah Brown of Wailuku marked the 11th traffic fatality of the year after a crash in the early morning hours of June 23, when a 2016 Subaru Forester traveling in the wrong direction on Kuihelani Highway crashed head-on into the 2003 Honda Civic that Brown was riding in. The 19-year-old male driver of the Honda was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Police arrested the Subaru driver, a 23-year-old Kula woman, for first-degree negligent homicide and operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. She was later released pending further investigation, which police said is common in fatal motor vehicle crashes because officers need to conduct a thorough investigation before sending the case to the Prosecutor’s Office.

While it’s an “ongoing investigation,” Jakubczak confirmed that “alcohol is a factor in this collision and speed is believed to be a factor as well.”

Jakubczak said the traffic section has been “busy this year.” In May, police gave out 822 citations, as well as making 34 arrests for operating under the influence of alcohol or other chemical substances, 12 traffic arrests, two warrant arrests and two felony arrests. Police also conducted 13 OUI sobriety checkpoints, during which they checked 1,060 vehicles and made 18 OUI arrests.

Enforcement increases during the holidays, Jakubczak added.

“At all hours, our officers remain visible as a presence to motorists to remind them to drive safely and within the law,” Okamoto said last week. “This includes utilizing both marked and unmarked vehicles and the use of blue cruise lights at night.”

The first traffic fatality of the year occurred Jan. 1 when 20-year-old Mau Loa Pacheco of Kula drove his 2004 Honda CR-V into an embankment and rolled into a utility pole. The others that followed:

• On Jan. 19, the driver of a 2015 Toyota four-door sedan lost control while heading northbound on Piilani Highway in Kihei, colliding with a fence and causing the car to go airborne and roll several times. Passenger Jordan Lawrence, 35, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, which was reported at 3:53 a.m. Police said none of the occupants were wearing seat belts.

• At 6:40 a.m. Jan. 7, a 56-year-old woman was walking across Puunene Avenue in a crosswalk near East Hawaii Street in Kahului when she was struck by a 2003 Nissan Sentra. She was taken to the hospital with critical injuries and later died.

• The fourth and fifth fatalities both occurred on Feb. 9. Brandon M. Wilson of Pukalani, 22, was walking in the outermost northbound lane of Maui Veterans Highway at 1:19 a.m. when he was struck by a 1996 Jeep Cherokee. At 7 p.m. that same day, 71-year-old Abraham Benson was killed in a hit-and-run along Makani Road.

• At about 6 a.m. March 2, 40-year-old Rebekah Stauffer of Kihei was struck by two cars and killed after walking within the inner northbound lane of Maui Veterans Highway just south of Kamaaina Road.

• At about 12:15 a.m. March 4, 41-year-old James Mallobox of Kihei was walking northbound of Wailea Alanui Drive when he was struck and killed by a Toyota sedan traveling in the same direction.

• At around 8:10 p.m. April 28, 21-year-old Cameron Kosman of Wailuku was unable to make a turn in the road on his 2007 Yamaha motorcycle and hit the center median on Wailea Alanui Drive. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

• The ninth traffic fatality happened at about 9:15 a.m. May 20 when a 2017 Mercedes-Benz cargo van crossed left of center on Honoapiilani Highway and hit a 1987 Nissan pickup truck head on, killing the 69-year-old truck driver, Jimmy Alvarez Barbosa of Lahaina.

• At around 9:22 p.m. June 16, a 23-year-old female Paia resident was driving a silver Honda Accord sedan along Haliimaile Road when she crossed lanes, sideswiped a silver Land Rover Discovery SUV and collided head on with a Nissan sedan. A passenger in the Nissan, 39-year-old Teresa Pham of Spring, Texas, died at the scene. The 48-year-old male driver of the Nissan, as well as a 50-year-old female passenger, a 50-year-old male passenger and a 14-year-old juvenile passenger were all transported to the Maui Memorial Medical Center with injuries.

“I wouldn’t speculate on why the number of fatalities fluctuate each year,” Okamoto said. “On our part, our traffic and patrol officers have been out in force, working enforcement campaigns such as speeding, drunk driving, seat belt, distracted driver . . . and stepped up enforcement around the holidays such as New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco De Mayo.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.