Teen’s critical injuries prompt family to question law allowing passengers in truck beds

Alton Naki Jr. (Photo: Ona Naki)

 

A teenager is fighting for his life after falling out of the bed of a pick-up truck.

It happened Monday morning on Keana Road in Kaneohe.

Elton Naki Jr., 17, landed on the road and was hospitalized in critical condition.

Naki’s mother, Ona Naki, says he underwent brain surgery and is currently in a coma. Naki is her only son and she says seeing him in pain and in a hospital bed is too much to bear.

“It was devastating. It’s something I could never imagine any other parent going through,” she said.

Naki is a starting corner on Castle High School’s football team and a guard on the basketball team. His friends will tell you the Kaneohe teen is well-liked.

Family and friends remain at his bedside with balloons, prayers, and hope for a speedy recovery.

Ona Naki says she’s optimistic, but the accident has her wondering if the current law that allows passengers to ride in the bed of a truck is safe.

“I didn’t really take to notice how something like this can change a whole family’s life, and the safety of riding in the back of a truck is so important,” she said.

“Like now that I think about it, it makes me think twice about riding in the back,” added Naki’s friend and classmate, Haaheo Ahakuelo-Kepa.

Current Hawaii law allows passengers 12 years and older to ride in the bed of a pick-up truck with restrictions. There must be no seating left inside the vehicle. The tailgate must be securely closed, and passengers cannot hold on to cargo.

Ona Naki questions whether that’s enough.

“They should pass a law of no one at all, even an adult, to not even be in the back of a truck,” she said.

Proposals to change the law have made its way to the legislature many times, but never passed.

“It’s a hard issue for some legislators and those in the community. They depend on the pickup maybe it’s for work or family, and they need family in the back,” said Rep. Tom Brower, D, who sits on the House transportation committee.

But Brower believes the law is flawed.

“Part of the hypocrisy is if you’re in a car in the backseat, you need a seat belt on. That’s the law. But then you can be unrestrained in the back of a pick-up truck and there’s a lot of irony there, and it is something lawmakers should look into,” he said.

Meanwhile, the teen’s friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help the family with medical expenses.

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