State plans highway changes in Maili following double-fatal crash

Published: Jan. 27, 2020 at 5:59 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a deadly collision near a Maili bridge replacement construction site, the state plans to make changes to improve the safety of drivers along Farrington Highway.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation intends to contraflow traffic in the area to eliminate a lane shift that is causing confusion for some motorists.

“We’ll always have two lanes in the peak direction, but we may only have one lane going in the opposite direction,” said Ed Sniffen, the state Highways Division deputy director.

Dee Decambra was at her home on Saturday night when she heard the serious car crash and rushed to help the victims. That’s when she saw her brother-in-law, Richard Takayama, amid the wreckage.

“I tried everything in my power to get him out,” Decambra said, through tears.

“He looked at me and I told him, ‘No worry brother, I going take you home.’ At that moment, I knew it was over, so I closed his eyes.”

Takayama, 61, was one of two people killed late Saturday in the crash. Also killed was his passenger, 40-year-old Brandie J. Navarro.

Police say the collision happened about 10:30 p.m., when the driver of a 1998 Toyota pickup truck was heading east on Farrington Highway, lost control and hit a concrete barrier west of Maipalaoa Road.

The driver then got back onto the road ― crossing the center line and crashing head-on into a 2003 Acura sedan ― which Takayama was driving.

The 53-year-old driver of the truck was hospitalized in critical condition.

Police say the leading factor of the crash may have been speed, but it’s unknown at this time if drugs or alcohol were factors.

“Coming through here, because it goes in a curve, it’s super dangerous,” said Decambra.

The state began a the Maipalaoa Bridge replacement project in 2015, but the contractor defaulted.

Work started back up again in 2019.

There is a lane shift to allow for construction space, as well as two townbound lanes and two westbound lanes.

“There have been concerns raised because the contractors have had to narrow the lanes,” said State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D-Maili, Waianae, Makaha).

Sniffen said crews added a streetlight, flashing beacons, and other features to alert drivers.

Since many motorists aren’t following the 25 mile per hour speed limit, however, the state now plans to make changes to get rid of the lane shift.

On weekdays, traffic will be contraflowed starting at 5 a.m. with two townbound lanes and one going westbound.

At 2 p.m., that will switch to two westbound lanes and one heading toward town.

The lanes will be wider and there will be a three-foot buffer between the shoulder lane on the makai side and the barriers.

“It’s not the best scenario from a congestion perspective, but given the events that happened this weekend, given that we see wheel marks on the concrete barriers, and given that we see people hitting those delineators, it’s an adjustment that’s got to be made now,” said Sniffen.

The bridge replacement project is five years behind schedule.

The work is expected to be done in June 2022.

Bystanders rushed to aid the victims of Saturday night's crash in Maili.
Bystanders rushed to aid the victims of Saturday night's crash in Maili.(Taylor Botelho)

On Sunday, balloons, flowers and a lei made up a memorial that marked the scene of the crash.

Loved ones remembered Takayama as laid back and a hard worker with a great sense of humor.

“We would talk so much smack to each other,” Decambra said.

“He would always tease me. We had a blast. He was my one and only true brother-in-law that we had in my family. That’s not just somebody you can forget overnight.”

“Never in your wildest dream you think you’re rendering aid and that’s someone you know and love,” Decambra added.

Decambra says Navarro was Takayama’s girlfriend.

This marks Oahu’s fifth and sixth fatalities of the year.

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