Pedestrian death involving tour bus raises safety concerns at private intersection

A 65-year-old woman died on her birthday after being hit by a tour bus near Ala Moana Center.

The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office has identified her as Jui-Ching Hu of Honolulu.

Police say it happened at around 8:25 a.m. Thursday as Hu crossed Mahukona Street.

Police say the bus, which belonged to Travel Plaza Transportation, was turning left from Kona Street onto Mahukona Street when it hit her.

“The bus driver ran over the female and she was dragged slightly. She was pronounced dead at the scene,” said Lt. Carlene Lau with the Honolulu Police Department. “She was in a marked crosswalk and we do have witnesses here at the scene.”

Speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash. A second-degree negligent homicide case has been opened.

Police say the 51-year-old male driver “is considerably traumatized.”

“We are very saddened by this tragic accident and send our deepest condolences to the victim’s family and friends,” said Travel Plaza Transportation president Yujiro Kuwabara. “We are cooperating fully with the Honolulu Police Department as they conduct their investigation.”

According to Travel Plaza Transportation, the driver was on his way to pick up passengers at a Waikiki hotel. He has been with TPT since April 2011, and has held a commercial driver’s license since 1984.

He had no prior incidents on his record, the company said.

Residents and people who work in the area say the intersection at Kona and Mahukona streets is dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians.

Many say they’ve experienced close calls themselves.

“I’ve almost been in car accidents at this intersection, because people don’t know who stopped first. They just go whenever they want to go,” said Rachel De Leon.

The intersection does have marked crosswalks, but it’s not a four-way stop. Police say the driver of the tour bus did not have a stop sign when he was turning left.

Can anything be done to increase safety?

The City says both Kona and Mahukona streets are privately owned.

We reached out to Ala Moana Center, which owns Kona Street, to see if the center could take a look at safety concerns, especially after what happened.

All we got was a statement from general manager Francis Cofran that said: “We are very saddened by the accident that occurred this morning on Mahukona Street. We extend our sincerest condolences to the family of the victim. Ala Moana Center is cooperating with the Honolulu Police Department as they continue their investigation.”

We asked the City, at what point would it step in to make sure private roads and intersections are as safe as they can be?

A spokesman referred us to a response from the FAQ section of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is controlled by the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration:

Q: Who will enforce the provisions of the MUTCD on private roads?

A: Private roads open to public travel are now subject to the same traffic control standards as public streets and highways. However, the FHWA does not believe it is necessary for State and/or local highway agencies to have specific authority or enforcement responsibility for traffic control devices on private roads to ensure compliance with the MUTCD. Owners or parties responsible for such private roads are encouraged to bring the traffic control devices into compliance with the MUTCD and other applicable State Manuals, and those who do not may find themselves exposed to increased tort liability. State and local jurisdictions can encourage MUTCD compliance on private roads by incorporating pertinent language into zoning requirements, building and occupancy permits, and similar controls that they exercise over private properties.

Lance Rae of Walk Wise Hawaii said, “It’s the engineering. It’s the infrastructure that’s put here. It’s the education of walking, making sure I’m paying attention and I’m following the rules.”

This is the first pedestrian fatality of the year.

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