Roadside memorial grows for young victims in Kona collision

Roadside memorial grows for young victims in Kona collision

KAILUA-KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The mother of one of the young victims killed in a head-on collision on the Big Island on Valentine's Day is sharing her sorrow. Instead of looking forward to her daughter's graduation, Denise Avanilla now has to plan a funeral for the Konawaena High School senior.

Kaela Avanilla was out with her boyfriend and two other teenagers in her mother's vehicle. Denise Avanilla had let Kaela's boyfriend drive the vehicle before, but she started to get worried when she couldn't reach any of them on Saturday.

"My stepdad came from the store and he said there's a really bad accident," said Denise Avanilla during a phone interview from her home in Kona Palisades. "My cousin called two minutes later saying, 'Is everything okay? The police are trying to get ahold of you guys.' I just felt like my whole world shattered."

Police say Avanilla's Kia collided head-on with a pickup truck near the intersection of Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Inhalant Street at about 5:15 a.m. on Saturday. The Kia burst into flames. A 17-year-old girl escaped, but Kaela, her boyfriend, and her best friend all died. Kaela's mother misses everything about her beloved daughter.

"Her smile. Her touch," said Denise Avanilla. "Those 3 kids left a really, really big impression on my life and my husband."

Medics took the 17-year-old survivor and the 39-year-old driver of the pickup truck to Kona Community Hospital. Investigators are looking into whether speed or alcohol were involved. Police have opened negligent homicide investigations.

"She wanted to go to college. She wanted to do so many things. She wanted to live life," said Denise Avanilla.

The family is still working on plans for a memorial service. For more information,


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