Hawaii County police are investigating a fiery vehicle crash that fatally injured one man in Papaaloa, North Hilo, Saturday morning.
Police said a 2020 Ford Edge SUV was traveling Waimea-bound on Highway 19 when it veered onto the right shoulder as it approached Nanue Bridge. The vehicle went over the cliff, hitting the bridge’s support column and landing in the ravine below.
Police said a man, believed to be the driver, was taken to the Hilo Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:02 p.m. An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.
Police are not releasing the man’s identity until he is positively identified and next of kin are notified. A coroner’s inquest investigation has been initiated.
The Hawaii County Fire Department responded to the incident with six units, including a helicopter and a total of 13 personnel. The scene was Nanue Stream, where they found a single vehicle ablaze in the stream bed below Nanue Bridge.
Chopper 1 transported fire and police teams to search for victims and to start an investigation into the cause of the crash. Police said the roadway did not appear to be wet, although skies were overcast in the area.
Speed is believed to be a primary factor in the collision, but further investigation will be conducted to determine whether other factors were involved.
The Department of Transportation has placed a 12-ton weight restriction on the use of the bridge.
Also, the DOT has closed the makai (northbound) lane over the bridge until a structural inspection can be completed, which is scheduled for Sunday. The DOT says that flaggers will manage traffic in both directions.
DOT said it is taking these actions out of an abundance of caution.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Officer Blayne Matsui at 808-961-2339 or email him at Blayne.Matsui@HawaiiCounty.gov.
Anonymous tipsters may call CrimeStoppers at 808-961-8300.
This is the seventh fatal traffic collision of the year on Hawaii island, compared to three during the same period last year.