Man rescues 7 year old girl trapped in Pahoa car crash - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Man rescues 7 year old girl trapped in Pahoa car crash

(image: Hawaii News Now) (image: Hawaii News Now)
PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A Kalapana man is being called a hero after he rescued a 7-year-old girl trapped in a bad Pahoa car crash Thursday night.

Richard Bell said he was driving home from Hilo when he came across the scene just before 7 p.m.

It was pitch black along the highway and all he could make out were screams for help.

"I saw the smashed van and debris all over the road and from both cars I can hear yelling 'help call 911, somebody help me'," Bell said.

Bell immediately pulled over and jumped out of his car while his fiance in the passenger seat called 911.

Bell said a woman was hanging out from the back window of a pickup truck.

Police said it was sideswiped by a van while making a U-turn on Highway 130 near Malama Street.

On the ground laid a man, motionless.

"His color looked like it was draining from the face already," said Bell. "His head was on a rock about the size of a football, with blood." 

That 50-year-old man, who has not yet been identified, was eventually taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Meanwhile, Bell heard more screams coming from the mangled van just feet away. He said one tiny voice in particular caught his attention.

"Once I saw the kid's face, that was just priority everything else didn't matter at the time to me," he said.

A 7-year-old girl was stuck in the back seat of the van with a broken leg.

Bell acted quickly to free her. "She's telling me 'I can't feel my legs I think they're broken,' and my heart sinks. I go to pick her up and I say 'don't worry baby girl, I got you, it's okay."

Police said a 65-year-old woman in the van, the little girl and the 74-year-old woman in the truck were all taken to the hospital in serious condition.

The driver of the van, who police identified as 30-year-old Justin Clark, also suffered serious injuries.

He was arrested for DUI and driving without a license or insurance. 

Bell said Clark had no recollection of what happened.

"He tells me 'to be honest I've had a couple of drinks and I have a warrant out for my arrest, you think there's any way I can get out of this?' At that point, I was just deeply disgusted," said Bell.

Bell is being hailed a hero for his actions, but he said he was just in the right place at the right time.

"I'm just happy I was there to be able to help," said Bell.

Police have opened a negligent homicide investigation and believe that alcohol and speed were factors in the crash.

A portion of Highway 130 was closed for several hours, between Leilani Boulevard and Malama Street, while police investigated.

This is the first traffic fatality this year compared to none this time last year. 

Clark was released Friday pending investigation.

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