Pain Still Fresh For Waimanalo Crash Victims' Families - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Pain Still Fresh For Waimanalo Crash Victims' Families

Tyler Duarte Tyler Duarte
Brian Benevedes Brian Benevedes
Racquel Akau Racquel Akau
Michelle Benevedes Michelle Benevedes

By Minna Sugimoto

WAIMANALO (KHNL) -- Nearly a year-and-a-half after a deadly car crash in Waimanalo, the pain is still fresh for family members of the two victims.

But on Wednesday, they took a big step forward as the young man accused of causing the wreck made his initial appearance at Honolulu District Court.

Tyler Duarte finds himself in the big leagues, after Family Court waives its jurisdiction.

Duarte was 17 years old on January 20, 2007. Investigators say he was behind the wheel of a speeding SUV, when it broadsided a car that was pulling out of a side street.

"They wouldn't let us go close to the scene to see her because she was still there, I mean, the car was totally smashed," Brian Benevedes, victim's father, said.

The women in the car, 39-year-old Michelle Benevedes and 38-year-old Racquel Akau, died. The two were cousins.

"You always hope that you go before your kids, you know," Brian Benevedes said. "When the other thing, the other way happens, like what happened to my daughter going before us, it tears us apart."

Now 18, Duarte is charged with two counts of first-degree negligent homicide and one count of failure to render aid. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison for each count.

Prosecutors say he was driving under the influence of alcohol and cocaine.

"If you're drinking or doing drugs, let somebody else drive the car because, you know, the end result can be catastrophic," Brian Benevedes said.

Benevedes and his wife are now raising Michelle's 12-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son.

"She was a real good person. She really took care of the kids, you know," the 67-year-old said. "We just miss her tremendously."

Prosecutors say the defense plans to waive Duarte's preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for Friday. He's expected to enter a plea at his Circuit Court arraignment July 15th.

Bail is set at $30,000.

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