HPD Denies Police Pursuit Caused Deadly Crash

Captain Frank Fujii
Captain Frank Fujii

By Minna Sugimoto

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Witnesses believe police were chasing a SUV on Kalanianaole Highway in Waimanalo before it crashed, killing two women. On Monday, HPD responded to the witness accounts.

A violent collision leaves two women dead. Police say they had nothing to do with it.

"There was no police pursuit that occurred prior to or during that motor vehicle collision," Capt. Frank Fujii, Honolulu Police Department, said.

Police say an officer first spotted the SUV cutting across Kalanianaole Highway from Poalima Street into the Waimanalo Shopping Center on a red light.

"Inside of the parking lot, tires were screeching," Fujii said.

The SUV got back onto the highway, Makapuu-bound. Police say the officer flipped on his siren as he was turning around, but was not involved in a pursuit.

A short distance away, the SUV slammed into a car. Thirty-nine-year-old Michelle Benevedes and 38-year-old Racquel Akau were pinned in the car and died at the scene.

"What really saddens us is the fact that two people lost their lives here," Fujii said. "You have two families who are grieving, and the deaths are really being marred by this controversy."

Officers arrested the driver of the SUV, a 17-year-old Waimanalo boy, then released him while they continue to investigate.

Witnesses say his 17-year-old male passenger fled the scene. KHNL News 8 has learned he's the son of a retired police officer and the grandson of a police commissioner.

"How we investigate the case, it would bear no difference," Fujii said. "In fact, I think, if anything else, we'd probably have to take a look at it, scrutinize it even more."

Police say speed and alcohol are factors in the crash.