HAWAII COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT UNIT
SERGEANT SAMUEL V. JELSMA
FEBRUARY 24, 2002
A 58-year-old visitor from California died after she was struck while standing on the shoulder of Alii Drive in front of the Hale Halewai O Holualoa Church in Kailua-Kona.
The victim was identified as Jane O’Brien, of Santa Barbara, California.
Responding to a 4:06 p.m. call Saturday (February 23, 2002), police officers determined that O’Brien was struck by a 1982 GMC van driven by Stephen St. Clair, 39, of a Kailua-Kona address. St. Clair was driving the van out of Holualoa Beach Park onto Alii Drive near the intersection with Royal Poinciana Drive when he accelerated rapidly. He was in the process of “burning rubber” when he spun the vehicle in a half-circle, crossed the centerline and struck the victim, who was standing on the paved oceanside shoulder. The van knocked the victim into a stone wall, initially pinning her before it disengaged and continued through the wall surrounding the church.
O’Brien was given cardio-pulmonary resuscitation at the scene and then taken to the Kona Community Hospital, where she later died of injuries suffered in the crash. She was pronounced dead at 4:44 p.m.
The driver of the van, who had not been wearing his seatbelt, was not injured in the incident. Still sitting in the van at the time police arrived, St. Clair was subsequently arrested for first-degree negligent homicide, drunk driving, reckless driving, reckless endangering, having no auto insurance and driving left of center. He is currently being held without bail at the Kona Police Station.
The victim’s sister, identified as Linda Cramer, 61, of Culpeper, Virginia, had been standing alongside the victim at the time of the accident. Cramer told police that she and her sister had just come back from a walk into town to do some shopping and were heading back to their condominium when they stopped to read the sign fronting the historic church. She said she had just mentioned that they should visit the church for the morning service on Sunday when she heard a loud squealing of tires and turned to see the van speeding toward them. Cramer said they both attempted to run out of its path, but the van struck her sister and narrowly missed her. She said the vehicle continued to accelerate after it struck her sister until it came to a stop when it slammed into the wall.
Police determined that the driver of the van, St. Clair, had been drinking alcohol in the park before the accident and had been highly intoxicated at the time.
Traffic Enforcement Unit officers are continuing the investigation and have ordered an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.
O’Brien’s death was the seventh traffic-related fatality on the Big Island so far this year, compared to none at the same time last year.
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