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.
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
"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
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
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
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
"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.
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
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."