By Ramsay Wharton
EWA BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just five days into the New Year, Honolulu has suffered its first traffic fatality.
Around 5:30 a.m. Thursday, Sgt. Aaron Bennett, 27, of Parma Heights, Ohio was killed when he crashed his motorcycle in the town bound lanes of Fort Weaver Road, just past the Waipahu exit across from the Hawaii Medical Center.
"Witnesses said that the bike was traveling at a high rate of speed, cutting in and out of vehicles when it collided with one vehicle," said Lieutenant Bobby Towne with Honolulu Police Department's Traffic Division. "The bike went down and the person and slid into the guard rail."
Then Bennett's Yamaha bike continued to slide further down the road without him. Even though he was wearing a helmet, his body suffered multiple injuries, including a life threatening one to an arm which was severed upon impact.
Traffic investigators believe speed is a factor, but not alcohol. They say normally they investigate motorcycle crashes where visibility is an issue, on the part of other drivers.
"Usually it's the other way around where a vehicle strikes the motorcycle because they just don't see him," said Towne. "So it's one of those issues, where both parties need to pay attention."
Police shut down Fort Weaver Road at the scene to investigate and rerouted town bound drivers through Waipahu which created a traffic backlog coming out of Ewa Beach during the morning rush-hour commute.
About 2.5 hours later, just after 8 a.m., HPD was able to reopen the road. What helped them to open it up an hour earlier was their ability to rely on new technology from aerial photography.
"Investigations spray painted two circles on the road near the crash site which will serve as aerial reference marks," said Towne. "And when our helicopter returns from repairs, sometime next week, investigators will take aerial photos of the scene." Officers will have to shut down that portion of Fort Weaver for about five minutes to do the work, but Towne said it'll be outside of peak driving hours.
Once they have the aerial photos, investigators will then superimpose them on the diagram of data collected this morning from the scene. The move saved investigators about an hour of time during the investigation that would have had them meticulously conduct various roadway measurements.
Police officers hope the public will make a New Year's resolution to slow down and pay more attention on the roadways.
According to officials, Sgt. Bennett served as an infantryman assigned to 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
He was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge an Army Commendation Medal and the Iraqi Campaign Medal with two campaign stars for his service. He was also awarded the Army Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Expert Infantryman Badge.
A funeral is scheduled for later this month at the Schofield Barracks post Chapel.
The exact cause of Bennett's death has not yet been determined.