Maui family hopes ‘nobody else has to live this nightmare’
During the holidays, Brown family honors daughter, advocates against drunk driving
KAHULUI — The parents of a 19-year-old Wailuku woman killed in a traffic crash were surrounded by family members, police officers, Mothers Against Drunk Driving volunteers and youths, as they held signs along Kaahumanu Avenue on the year-and-a-half anniversary of her death.
“We have great support,” said Charlene Brown, who lost her only daughter, Hannah Brown, in a June 23, 2019, collision on Kuihelani Highway. “Not only MPD, we have our community. We have really good support from the community, our friends and family.”
With plans for a hoolaulea and 21st birthday party for their daughter altered in the pandemic, Charlene Brown and her husband, Everett, wanted to have the sign waving against impaired driving during the holiday season which is filled with difficult days for the family.
“We still can’t figure out what to do without her,” Charlene Brown said. “Most of the days, it’s hard. Usually, on the 23rd of every month, it’s hard. It’s a hard day to forget.
“All we can do is try to make sure that nobody else has to live this nightmare. We can’t put a stop to it, but we can at least try to get the awareness there and people will understand you don’t want to go through this.”
Police traffic commander Lt. William Hankins said traffic officers, including some who are on vacation, turned out on their own time to back the Brown family. So did Mothers Against Drunk Driving volunteers and students from a Maui Economic Opportunity youth services program.
Hannah Brown was a passenger in her 2003 Honda Civic driven by her 19-year-old boyfriend when the Kahului-bound car was hit head on by a 2016 Subaru Forester going the wrong way on Kuihelani Highway, police said.
She died at the scene of the crash at 1:27 a.m.
A criminal case is pending against the Subaru driver, Lynsey Jio, 23, of Kula, who has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, driving under the influence of an intoxicant, speeding and reckless driving.
“Everybody connects to this story,” Hankins said. “Everybody knows who Hannah is, and everybody knows how she died. When the family comes out, it’s part of changing people’s behavior. We got to change the behavior if we’re going to change the numbers. With the Browns, we’re doing it.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re doing it.”
So far this year, eight people have died in traffic crashes on Maui County roads, compared with 23 at the same time last year for a 65 percent decrease.
Police have made 485 arrests for impaired driving this year.
“We hope that people think twice before driving while intoxicated because it took the life of our niece,” said Hannah’s aunt Erika Kekahuna, a Kihei resident. She was joined by daughter Kamaile, 12; son Eidan, 8; and husband Pat.
Kekahuna remembered Old Navy shopping sprees with Hannah.
“She was such a good big cousin to my children,” Kekahuna said. “She was very loving, always taking care of her two younger cousins.”
About 50 people participated in the hourlong sign waving Wednesday evening fronting Kahului Shopping Center.
“We’re all about prevention and trying to help the community,” said Kristin Wells, program specialist for MEO youth services.
Ashanti Ortiz, a Maui High School student doing her senior project on drunken driving, said she hoped the sign waving would get people to think when they’re out partying late at night. “You could be sober and have somebody else drive into your lane,” she said.
Charlene Brown said the awareness has to start with the youth.
She said she has noticed a change in social media responses when people ask about DUI checkpoints. Some comment that people have nothing to worry about if they don’t drink and drive.
“It’s nice to see the little shift happening,” Brown said.
DUI Task Force Sgt. Nick Krau said police are trying to take a different approach to try to stop impaired driving.
“Over the years, we’ve learned that enforcement alone is not going to end impaired driving,” he said. “Now, we participate in more education efforts and raise awareness to help prevent impaired driving before it begins. It’s to make people aware that the community does support impaired driving enforcement.
“When we all work together, we save lives to make the community safer for everybody.”
Krau said he was glad to see the turnout Wednesday.
“It’s wonderful working with the other organizations and groups,” he said. “It makes a big difference and we’re thankful for all of them.”
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.