POSTED: 5:07 a.m. HST, Jul 18, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 4:34 p.m. HST, Jul 18, 2011
A 58-year-old Wahiawa man was killed this morning after he drove his car in the wrong direction on H-2 freeway and crashed head-on with another vehicle. Police closed the southbound lanes of H-2 during rush hour, tying up traffic for more than four hours from Wahiawa through Waikele.
The driver of the 2002 silver Hyundai sedan died at the scene, about 1,000 feet north of Pineapple Overpass Road, following the 4:28 a.m. collision, police said.
The 47-year-old Waialua woman who was driving the other car, a 2009 brown Toyota SUV, was last reported in critical condition at Queen's Medical Center.
A third driver, a 44-year-old Waianae woman, was in good condition at Queen's. She was driving a 1993 maroon Honda sedan that swerved to avoid the two cars and hit the center median, police said.
The male driver of the Hyundai was headed north in the southbound lane ofH-2, hitting the Toyota head on, police said. They did not know why the Wahiawa man was driving the wrong way and where he had entered the H-2 freeway.
The closure at about 4:45 a.m. created a major traffic backlog in Mililani, affecting commuters from the North Shore, Wahiawa and Mililani. All lanes reopened at 9:27 a.m.
Traffic also backed up in the northbound direction on the H-2 freeway after police closed northbound lanes of Kamehameha Highway at Kipapa Gulch to allow southbound traffic to flow in both sides of the highway. Kipapa Gulch reopened at 8:42 a.m.
The Honolulu Police Department issued a statement:
"The HPD understands motorists’ frustration with road closures. However, while it is important to quickly re-open roadways, this is not always possible. While traffic can sometimes be diverted, Oahu’s surface streets cannot handle rush hour traffic when a major artery is closed. The HPD apologizes for the traffic inconvenience but hopes that the public can understand the importance and seriousness of this investigation into the incident which left one person dead and sent two persons to the hospital, one in critical condition.
"It is the HPD’s responsibility to conduct thorough and complete investigations of all critical and fatal traffic collisions. In this case, first responders, including police, fire, and ambulance personnel, worked efficiently to provide care for the victims, conduct the investigation, remove vehicles, and clear vehicle fluids from approximately 7,000 square feet of roadway.
"Debris from the three-car collision spanned all of the southbound lanes of the freeway and stretched for approximately 50 yards. As a result, officers were forced to shut down all three lanes and were unable to leave any lanes open. Additional officers were called in to assist with traffic and southbound traffic was redirected or contra-flowed onto the northbound lanes of Kamehameha Highway."
Jim Neuman, a Navy historian, didn't know there had been an accident when he left his home in Wahiawa for Pearl Harbor just before 8 a.m.
"It's gridlock here," Neuman said while sitting idly in the traffic jam on Kamehameha Highway. "It's bumper to bumper now — in both directions."
The drive to Pearl Harbor normally takes about a half hour, but Neuman said he didn't expect to be in his office until 10:30 a.m.
Neuman said it took him 90 minutes to get from Wahiawa to Waikalani Drive and Kipapa Street in Mililani on Kamehameha Highway. That stretch of road would normally take him five minutes, he said.
This was the 29th traffic fatality this year, compared with 32 a year ago.
The wrecked vehicles were towed to All Island Towing.