PAHALA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Five people, including a nine-year-old boy, have died after a fiery two-vehicle collision that closed Highway 11 for several hours between Pahala and Punaluu Black Sand Beach, police said. Officials reopened the highway just before 4 p.m.
The dead also include three men and a woman who were killed at the scene. The boy who initially survived the crash was taken in extremely critical condition to Ka'u Hospital and then taken by helicopter to Kona Community Hospital, where he died, according to police.
Family members identified the man and woman in the pickup truck as 65-year-old Richard Taylor and 56-year-old Trini Ballesteros, both of Naalehu. They said the two were heading to Hilo in Taylor's Ford F-350 pickup truck.
Investigators the crash happened at about 10:15 a.m. near milepost 54 between Pahala and the Punaluu Black Sand Beach. They said speed was a factor when a southbound 2012 Nissan Altima crossed over the center line into the path the northbound pickup.
"I believe there was one witness behind the Nissan, and again the witness says the Nissan had crossed the center line," said Hawaii Police Sgt. Christopher Gali. "We're still going to need to determine why the driver crossed the center line, but that's what we have right now."
Both vehicles sustained extreme front end damage in the collision. The pickup also burst into flames in the impact, authorities said.
Hawaii Police said the deaths bring the Big Island's traffic death toll to 7 so far this year, compared to none a year ago.