Three people are dead and one in critical condition following a fiery crash in Kona.
It happened at around 6:26 a.m. on Queen Kaahumanu Highway near the 92-mile marker outside Kona International Airport.
According to police, a Toyota 4Runner, was seen passing vehicles as it headed northbound.
Police say the driver lost control and veered into the southbound lane, where the vehicle was broadsided by an oncoming Nissan Titan truck.
“After the collision, two vehicles were fully engulfed in fire,” said Sgt. Bradley Freitas, Hawaii Police Department. “Speeding was a factor in this crash. What can I best suggest to motoring public is they be cognizant of their driving.”
The male driver and passenger of the Toyota 4Runner and the male driver of the Nissan Titan were all taken to Kona Community Hospital where they were pronounced dead.
Autopsies have been order to determine the exact cause of death and to identify the men.
A 32-year-old female passenger of the Nissan Titan was taken to Kona Community Hospital where she remains in critical condition.
While police believe speed was a factor in the crash, it’s not yet known if alcohol was also a factor.
The highway was shut down in both directions until around noon while police investigated and cleared the scene. Traffic was rerouted onto Waikoloa Road and Kaiminani Drive.
“There are only a few major thoroughfares coming in and out of Kona. Unfortunately, when one of them is blocked up, it causes major congestion just because of lack of roads exiting Kona town,” Freitas said.
Hawaii Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Unit has opened a negligent homicide investigation and is asking for anyone who may have witnessed the accident to contact Officer Kimo Keliipaakaua at 326-4646 ext. 229. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo.
This is the 13th, 14th, and 15th traffic fatalities this year compared to 10 at this time last year.
Wednesday morning’s crash brings the number of deaths on Hawaii’s roads to seven in just the past five days.
Two people died after a crash on Kunia Road Tuesday morning, and two others died in separate accidents over the weekend.
With graduation season already upon us, police on all islands have been urging drivers to exercise caution and drive defensively.
“People really need to be careful and need to look out for each other, especially in Hawaii,” said Capt. Thomas Taflinger, Honolulu Police Department’s Traffic Division. “We’re such a small community. Everybody at any moment of the day has a family member or somebody that you know on the road, and you like to think that you can go to bed at night knowing that our family member or friend is safe driving on our streets.”
Taflinger says if you see someone driving erratically, try to get a description of the vehicle, the license plate number, and alert police as soon as possible without jeopardizing your own safety on the road.