A utility worker was hospitalized in critical condition after he was hit by a car in the Punchbowl area early Wednesday morning.
It happened at around 12:40 a.m. on the Punchbowl Street on-ramp onto the H-1 Freeway westbound.
Police tell us a 22-year-old driver was traveling westbound when he lost control of his car, rear-ended a utility vehicle, and struck a guard rail.
Police say he then hit a 47-year-old utility electrical worker who was working on a highway lighting project. The man was pinned between the car and a utility boom truck.
Dylan Katekaru was arrested for driving under the influence and negligent injury. He was later released pending further investigation.
Police say alcohol is a factor in the crash, but it is unknown if speed is one as well.
Police tell us the victim was working on installing LED light fixtures to the Punchbowl tunnel and beneath the Queen Emma Street overpass.
We reached out to the company where the victim worked, but no one was ready to talk.
The state Department of Transportation says the crash victim is an electrician who was contracted to work on the state’s lighting improvement project.
When it comes to working on Hawaii’s highways, what are the dangers workers face?
Amber Le owns Liberty Tow Hawaii, an emergency tow service company.
She tells her drivers “to stay as safe as possible. We need to put out the cones. We all took the same class here. For all the tow truck drivers on the island, we take the same safety class. We have to put out the cones. If it’s dark, we even have our flashlights that we put out. Our flashlights are on this pulsating setting, so that people are aware when they are approaching.”
Le says drivers need to merge over, because they are traveling too fast, and it creates a dangerous work environment for people trying to help others get off the highway.
“We do these jobs that no one else will do, and we have a family of our own,” Le said. “It just pains me to know that there are so many reckless people out there, doing these incredible horrible things like drinking and driving, and we have to pay for it with our lives.”
We asked Honolulu police and the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations how often workers are injured on the highway.
Both said they do not have that information.