3-year-old boy killed, 4 injured in Makaha hit-and-run crash

Potasi Uta
Potasi Uta

MAKAHA (HawaiiNewsNow) -  "The family was waiting at the bus stop while the father was across the street," said Lieutenant Robert Towne with the Honolulu Police Department's Traffic Division.

Police say a suspected homeless family was the victim of a senseless crime around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night when an alleged drunk driver slammed into a mother and her six children at a bus stop on Farrington Highway in Makaha across from Kili Drive.

Delani Tahany was on her computer when she heard the commotion.

"I heard the screeching, so you hear that often here at this corner and then I heard an impact," said Tahany.

Then Tahany and other neighbors say they heard the badly damaged suspect vehicle, a 1994 Gold Honda Accord, flee the scene.

According to traffic investigators, a 3 year old boy died at the scene. His eleven year old sister, the eldest of the children, was taken to the Queen's Medical Center with critical leg injuries. Police say she may lose one or both of her legs. Two more school age children and the 41-year old mother, were also hospitalized in serious condition.

A certified nurse's assistant, who wished to remain unidentified, came to help at the scene. The Good Samaritan said she immediately went to the mother when she saw she had an infant child in a baby carrier still attached to her chest. She said the baby was unhurt, and after identified herself to the mother, urged her to release the child to her and others at the scene so that she and the other injured children could be helped by paramedics who were on their way.

Police confirm that infant, another small child and the dad who told police he had been across the street setting up a tent, were not hurt.

At 11:45 pm, police arrested suspected drunk driver, 44 year old Potasi Uta of Waianae near the 7-11 in Makaha. Uta was booked at the Kapolei police station for Negligent Homicide in the First degree, (OVUII) Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence and Accident Involving Death. He was then taken for a required blood draw in Pearl City, before returning to Kapolei awaiting transfer to HPD's main station.

The Department of Public Safety says Uta was parolled just 9 days ago, on March 20, 2012 and had just cleared a drug test this past Tuesday when he saw his parole officer for the first time.

At the scene, police took down the broken bus stop shelter for safety after the left side suffered damaged in the collision.

At daylight, a makeshift memorial started to grow as word spread along the Leeward Coast.

Five-year-old Skye Rodrigues of Makaha came down to the scene after her Grandmother told her what happened. She placed a small stuffed rabbit near the shelter and police tape.

"I felt sad because they was homeless," she said.  "So I said grandma, can we buy a bunny for them. So grandma said yeah, and we bought it and brought it over here and put it down."

When I asked Skye why she picked the little rabbit, she replied, "So they can be happy and not hurt anymore."

Skye's grandmother, Sammi Mawae of Makaha cried when she spoke of the horrific incident.

"It's just hard. It's just..heartbroken. It's so very sad," said Mawae.

Rebecca of Nanakuli cried as she placed a stuffed animal and handwritten note at the scene.

"It's ridiculous. It's out of control," she said. "We need to learn already. Its' not hard to stay home and drink, or to get a designated driver.  Now this poor family lost their baby."

And that was the same painful reaction that was felt by the suspect's family who came to pay their respects to the victim's family and to publically apologize.

Chantel Garcia, daughter to Uta's eldest brother, spoke on behalf of Uta's extended family who she said was devastated by the news. She said Uta has eight children and four grandchildren and had just seen him this past Sunday at a family gathering.

"From his heart and from his family's heart, we are so sorry," said a tearful Garcia. "And he has his own family and his own grandkids that are around the same age as these kids and I dont want him to be looked at like he's a monster and just went out for a joy ride. It was just so unfortunate that this had to happen."

Kea Klausmeyer-Among's daughter raced to the scene to help the victims after hearing the crash. She complained the community has seen this type of senseless tragedy too many times along their roadways. She said they recently stopped a proposed bypass road from going through the area and instead want to see improvements made to the Makaha bridges near the bus stop fixed with new sidewalks and barriers. She said she's repaired numerous fences due to accidents near the bridges.

Other concerned citizens suggested speed bumps, more speed signs, and even moving the bus stop as a possible way to help keep pedestrians and homeowners safe from the harm of irresponsible drivers.

It's a terrible turn of events that has many residents wondering if that could have been then behind the wheel, or them, at the bus stop.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.