HAWAII COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT UNIT
SERGEANT SAMUEL V. JELSMA
JULY 4, 1999
A 35-year-old Puna man died Sunday morning (July 4, 1999) following a two-car traffic accident on Route 19 (Hawaii Belt Road) at the Ookala Bridge in North Hilo.
The victim was identified as John Chavez of Keaau.
Responding to a 6:26 a.m. call, police officers determined that a 1990 Suzuki two-door sedan driven by Jomal Ford, 21, of Glenwood, Puna, was heading east when it ran off the right shoulder of the road and struck a guardrail. The can then came back onto the road, crossed the centerline and collided with Chavez’s 1986 Toyota four-door sedan heading west on the bridge.
Fire rescue personnel transported Chavez to the Hilo Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9:04 a.m. Ford was taken to the North Hawaii Community Hospital, where he was treated and released. Two passengers in Ford’s car, Aleka Rincon, 20, of Volcano, and Saisyn Weber, 17, of Hilo were transported to the Hilo Medical Center in serious but stable condition.
The accident caused a closure of Route 19 in the area of the bridge for about four hours.
Traffic Enforcement Unit officers are continuing an investigation to determine if speed or alcohol was involved. They have initiated a standard negligent homicide investigation and ordered an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.
Sunday’s fatality was the 14th so far this year, compared to 19 at the same time last year.
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