Kaumakani accident victim identified

WAIMEA -The victim who died in Tuesday’s fiery crash along Kuamuali’i Highway

near Kaumakani has been identified as Henry Soares, 36, of

Kekaha.

According to Beth Tokioka, the county’s public information officer,

it took fire crews from Hanapepe and Waimea 90 minutes to extract Soares from

his Isuzu multi-purpose vehicle.

And, it took the better part of 24 hours

from the time of the accident to the time Soares was positively

identified.

Burned beyond recognition after a collision with a County of

Kaua’i public bus with a driver and six passengers aboard, Soares was taken to

Kaua’i Veterans Memorial Hospital (KVMH).

All those on the bus were also

taken to the hospital, where they were treated and released, while an autopsy

and identification work were done on Soares.

A rare summer rain squall on

the Westside, which apparently caused poor visibility, may have been a

contributing factor to the accident, according to police reports and an

eyewitness who also saw a heroic rescue attempt by an unidentified Filipino man

who was driving a red car.

The bus was traveling toward Kekaha, and Soares

was heading toward Lihu’e, when the two collided. The force of the impact,

according to police, sent Soares’ vehicle back from the westbound to the

eastbound lane, where it ended up in flames against the guardrail.

Waimea’s

Eleanor M. Seeley, who was two vehicles behind the bus at the time of the

accident, recalled in a letter to The Garden Island the unidentified Filipino

man who risked his life to try to save a stranger’s.

“He and I were the

first ones at the accident, and I witnessed how he heroically ran to an

exploding car and tried to rescue the person trapped inside,” she said.

“He

put himself in danger and overlooked the fact that there could have been a

second explosion with the bus.” Seeley said conditions in the rain at the time

of the accident reduced visibility to almost zero, and she nearly lost control

of her truck while applying the brakes to slow herself down.

That’s when

she witnessed terror through the windshield. “I saw the Kaua’i Bus had hit a

car (I couldn’t tell if it was from behind or head-on); and the bus crossed

over the divider line and rammed and pinned the vehicle to the left (eastbound

lane) guardrail, smashing the car like an accordion,” she recalled.

The

accident and what happened after will have a long-term impact on Seeley, she

said.

“The monument of this individual is on my heart as well. My deepest

regret for the families of this individual,” she said.

“And my highest

respect and regards for the brave Filipino man in the red car (whose name I

never got), whose courage I witnessed. You are a great testimony to our

island,” Seeley said.

The Kaua’i Police Department Traffic Safety Unit is

looking for other eyewitnesses to the fatal traffic accident, including the

Filipino man.

“This information is very important to the investigative

team,” said Tokioka. “Anyone with first-hand knowledge about the accident

should call acting Sgt. Jon Takamura or Lt. Stanton Koizumi, at

241-6760.

The bus driver, who has not been identified, is currently on

administrative leave pending results of standard-procedure, post-accident

alcohol and drug testing, Tokioka said. The testing was also done at KVMH. The

bus driver is also distraught, she said.

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