VIDEO: Friends Mourn Loss of Kula Crash Victims
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ4B_o_6NaU /] By Wendy Osher
Family and friends of five people killed in a Sunday morning crash on the Kula Highway, gathered at a roadside memorial this afternoon to pay their respects.
“They were always laughing, always smiling, just so happy living life to the fullest; and then something like this happens. It’s just not fair,” said Bree Poopaa of Lahaina who knew all five victims. “They were so young and they were supposed to grow up,” she said.
Poopaa described one of her friends, 19-year-old Pukalani resident Annastachia Cruz-Kalua, as an amazing Tahitian dancer who had dreams of going to college.
Both Cruz-Kalua and the 21-year-old Pukalani man who was driving the vehicle, were members of the same Polynesian dance troupe, said friends. The driver identified by friends as Libert “Fiji” Qalivere, was the only one from the vehicle who survived the crash. He remained hospitalized in stable condition at last report.
“Fiji is like the most responsible one I know of my boyfriend’s friends,” said Poopaa.
“We all kind-of had our moment where the blame comes out, but to be honest, I’ll fight for Fiji. He wasn’t in the wrong,” said friend Wylan Myers of Paia.
Friends say another victim, 20-year-old Karl Barrack, was the cousin of the driver.
In all, five people were ejected from the Dodge vehicle and were fatally injured, when the car crossed the center line and collided into another vehicle just south of the Kula 200 Hoopalua subdivision.
The impact of the collision was such that the Dodge was severed in half with the pieces landing approximately 185 feet apart from each other, according to Maui police.
“All of these people in that accident were pretty much my family,” said Haiku resident Akoni English. “I grew up with them since sixth grade–they’re practically my brothers and my sisters, especially Karl.”
English lived at the same home as 20-year-old Pukalani resident, Karl Barrack, who died after being transported to the Maui Memorial Medical Center on Sunday morning.
“I promised myself that I would help protect him through whatever he needed, and I couldn’t do that,” said English.
Other victims of the crash included 20-year-olds: Remington Taylor Redwell of Lahaina, Steven R. Shaw of Lahaina, and Ambrose “A.J.” Momoa of Waiehu.
Meantime, the three occupants of the Suzuki all survived the impact of the head-on collision. The driver, a 46-year-old male driver and his 47-year-old female front-seat passenger, were treated and released–both were wearing seatbelts. A 55-year-old woman who was a passenger, was not wearing her seatbelt, and remained hospitalized at last report in stable condition. All three occupants of the Suzuki were from Pukalani.
The group of young adults in the Dodge had gathered overnight for a get-together far out in the Kula/Kaupo region prior to the accident, according to friends.
“It was just a get-together. It wasn’t a party; it wasn’t a rage; it was just under 20 people coming together as friends,” said Myers. “One of the best nights of friends being together turned into one of the worst mornings,” he said.
“We were all just cruising on the beach having a good time, talking story,” said Myers.
While police suspect speed and alcohol as factors in the crash, Myers described the driver as sober, but tired. “That guy took maybe one beer the entire night; and the only thing is, strictly I feel, they were just tired–they were all tired,” he said.
Myers said Anastachia was supposed to have driven, “but she was extremely tired.”
“Only one person was still drunk at the moment and they had no intention of driving. Everyone else stopped drinking hours before,” said Myers.
Other friends still wanted others to know the dangers of drinking and the importance of seatbelt safety.
“Especially if you’re going to have that much people, you shouldn’t have your car keys. Somebody should have taken your car keys; and wear your seatbelt when you’re driving because obviously, that can save your life,” said Poopaa.
“Don’t drink and drive,” said English. “Always have a designated driver. Always wear your seatbelt. Never take life for granted. Keep your friends close to you because everybody goes–it’s sad to say–everybody has thier day and this shouldn’t have been theirs.”