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Male passenger dies in plunge off Waipio Valley cliff 03-16-02
HAWAII COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT UNIT
SERGEANT SAMUEL V. JELSMA
MARCH 16, 2002
A 44-year-old Hamakua man died Saturday morning (March 16, 2002) after a pickup truck drove off the side of the Waipio Valley access road and plunged down a 300-to-400-foot cliff to the beach below.
The name of the victim was still being withheld Saturday morning pending the notification of family members.
Responding to an 8:20 p.m. call Friday evening, police officers determined that the victim was a passenger in a 1998 Chevrolet four-wheel-drive pickup truck that had made it about two-thirds of the way up the access road when it climbed over an embankment on the left should of the road and dropped off the cliff. On hitting the ground below, the vehicle appeared to have rolled over several times. The victim was found pinned in the passenger seat of the vehicle.
He was later taken to the Hilo Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:10 a.m. Saturday.
The driver of the truck, John Richard Davis, 35, of Honokaa, could not be found the evening of the crash, and a search for him was begun at daybreak. Heard yelling and whistling, he was found hung up on a tree branch about 100 feet up the ledge from the beach by fire rescue personnel about 7:30 a.m. Saturday. Rescue personnel rappelled down the side of the cliff and used a helicopter to retrieve Davis from the tree. He was flown to the Hilo Medical Center, where he was treated for a fractured leg and bruises to his upper body. He was later confined in guarded condition.
Witnesses reported that the vehicle had been traveling recklessly at a very high rate of speed up the Waipio Valley access road just before the accident occurred. It was learned the vehicle was in the process of overtaking another vehicle when the accident occurred.
It was also determined that the fatality victim had not been wearing a seatbelt, although airbags deployed on both sides of the truck.
Traffic Enforcement Unit officers continuing the investigation have initiated a standard negligent homicide case and have ordered an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.
Friday’s death was the 10th traffic fatality of the year so far on the Big Island, compared to two at the same time last year.
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