KAAAWA,OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police have released a Kaneohe man pending further investigation after a head-on collision that claimed the life of a mother of four.
According to police, Sione Tilini, 25, was released Saturday evening. He was arrested for negligent homicide and operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant.
A relative of the victim identified her as 49-year-old Rene Nihipali. Police say she was on her way to work at Hawaiian Airlines and wasn't able to avoid the head-on collision. Police said a black Jeep Compass driven by Tilini crossed the center line and collided with Nihipali's white pick-up truck.
"The driver of the Compass was arrested for operating the vehicle under the influence," said Lieutenant Robert Towne of HPD's Traffic division.
Tilini has five prior convictions, two of them for having alcohol in a public area. The Kaneohe resident's two passengers were taken to Queen's Medical Center. A man in his 20s was in critical condition. A woman who was riding in the front seat was in serious condition.
Keoni Hawkins lives nearby and heard the sounds of the crash just before 5 a.m. He ran out of his house to help and found Nihipali unconscious in her truck.
"I checked her pulse there was nothing; I checked her chest she wasn't breathing," said Keoni Hawkins – a nearby resident.
Hawkins and a few others broke through the truck's window and attempted to revive Nihipali, but it was too late.
"It's sad because that was somebody's mom, somebody's aunty, sister, whatever and she passed away like that to a drunk driver and she was innocent going to work," said Hawkins. "She was doing nothing wrong, she had her seatbelt on, her airbag went off, but obviously that wasn't good enough."
A long-time friend of Nihipali describes her as having a glowing personality and as someone who lived for her children.
"The kids are the ones that I feel for, she did everything, everything in her power for them, never missed and sporting events, any school events, that's Rene," said Nihipali's friend Linda Fehoko. "She put her career on hold for her kids. I know her, whoever banged her, she'll be saying from above, let it go, its okay."
But nearby residents say they've seen too many close calls and they want drivers to be more careful while out on the road.
"Drive with a designated driver, somebody that's sober enough to drive," said Hawkins, "and don't drink and drive, especially down this side, the roads are really dangerous, killed a lot of people already."
Nihipali is a graduate of Kahuku High School. She's survived by her husband, four children and one grandchild.
The deadly crash closed a stretch of Kamehameha Highway where Kualoa meets Ka'a'awa for about four hours.