Two children struck by car in Waipahu crosswalk - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Two children struck by car in Waipahu crosswalk

Posted: Updated:
WAIPAHU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Two elementary school students were hit crossing the street in Waipahu this morning.  Both 5 year-olds were taken to an area hospital in stable condition, along with a toddler who tumbled out of his stroller during the commotion.  Family members confirm they were with adults and in a crosswalk at the time.

First-grader Joelann Viernes lives across the street from August Ahrens Elementary School.  He was walking to class with his grandmother when he was hit at the intersection of Waipahu Street and Ana Lane.

"A red car bang me," Joelann described, after returning home from the hospital.

Witnesses say the 19-year-old female driver was going about 10 miles per hour.  Honolulu police are investigating and say alcohol was not a factor but the driver may have been blinded by the sun.


 

"The driver tried to stop but too late," Joelann explained. 

 

The 5-year-old didn't break any bones, but landed on his face and has to wear a splint on his leg.  His mother, Melanie Viernes, was still in shock when she spoke to Hawaii News Now hours later.

"I seen how my son looked in front of the car.  He was by the road and it was all bleeding, so it was like oh my God, I don't know how I feel.  I cannot explain.  It's so heavy inside," said Viernes, fighting back tears. 

Viernes says she taught Joelann to look both ways before crossing the street, so she can't believe he was hit in a crosswalk.

"He told me the white man was there already Mom so that's why we have to go," said Viernes, explaining how her son told her he waited for the pedestrian signal on the crosswalk.

Ahrens is one of the state's largest elementary schools with more than 1,400 students. 

"Many of Hawai'i's schools were built over 50 years ago and then the community built up, so you have a lot more traffic, a lot of people, a lot of housing has developed, so you got a lot of people driving to work and in addition, there's a lot more kids in this particular school," described Mark Behrens, the Director of the Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Branch for the state Department of Education

Behrens says in this busy area, junior police officers help make a difference, but what is really needed are more Honolulu Police Department crossing guards. There are currently 80 vacancies.

"This morning we did have our JPO's out there with the JPO advisor, but because there's so many different sections to cross, we couldn't cover all of them," explained Behrens.  "School traffic monitors or crossing guards are actually employees of the Honolulu Police Department and it's very difficult to fill those positions. It's only one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, so we try to look for kupuna, people who are retired, people who are walking their grandkids to school and maybe picking them up after that wouldn't mind doing that.  The schools that do have crossing guards, they're very grateful and they bend over backwards to keep them.  They are important.  They are vital. But it's not just a crossing guard, it's the drivers.  We need to emphasize that the drivers need to do their part."

Emergency responders agree and say parents as well need to be active participants in their child's safety by teaching their kids how to cross the street properly.

"This is dangerous.  There are kids everywhere walking to school.  The school year has just begun and we don't want our kids to end up in the hospital," said Shayne Enright, the public information officer for the Honolulu Emergency Services Department.

It's such an important issue Emergency Medical Services recently put together a public service announcement to raise awareness about the additional precautions drivers and parents need to take in school zones.  It's available on both their Facebook and YouTube pages. ( Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJuqxNJFB24 )

"Fortunately the kids are going to be okay and it wasn't a tragedy today.  We definitely want to prevent anything worse than what we saw today," said Enright.

Joelann says he's a little sore, but ready to return to class.  When asked when he will be going back to school he replied, "Tomorrow."

Follow Mileka Lincoln:    

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.