KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three deadly crashes in the last week on Maui have thrown families and friends of the victims into mourning.
The latest traffic death happened on Monday afternoon in Kahului. Police said Van Tomita was riding an electric personal mobility device in a marked crosswalk when he was struck by a flatbed tow truck making a right turn onto Dairy Road out of Maui Marketplace.
Tomita worked at Polli's Mexican Restaurant for more than 30 years, until health problems forced him to stop in May. The 64-year-old used to fry up the eatery's famous chips to go along with the salsa. His former coworkers were devastated by the news of his death.
"He just brought smiles to everyone's faces wherever he went. He just had the biggest, kindest heart and spirit," said Kiana Letizia, who worked with Tomita for 29 years.
Friends said that the Kahului man used to be active in the bowling league and he enjoyed taking trips to Las Vegas. He was deaf and one of his legs was recently amputated due to complications from diabetes, according to his former coworkers.
"He was just a big part of our lives and friendship, and he was like family," said Letizia.
Officials said this is Maui County's 14th traffic fatality, compared to seven this time last year.
Last week Friday, a 56-year-old motorcyclist died after slamming into a metal sign post near the intersection of Haleakala Highway and Haleakala Crater Road. David Garrett of Haiku died at the scene, according to police.
The 11th grader was the rear seat passenger in a pickup truck that failed to negotiated a bend in the roadway, striking a utility pole along Hansen Road just north of Pulehu Road.
"She actually texted me the morning of the accident and told me she decided what college she wanted to go to," Yogi said. "She wanted to be a psychologist. She really wanted to help people."
The teen's family went to Maui High School last Thursday for a tribute on campus. More than 300 students showed up wearing white to honor Eryn-Joie.
"We fought, naturally, like mother and daughter. But at the end she'd always say, 'I love you, Mama.' That's what I miss the most, that and her smile," Yogi said, fighting back tears.
A public funeral will be held on Sept. 22 at Ballard Mortuary. Visitation will begin at 2 p.m. and continue after the memorial service which starts at 4 p.m.