WAILUA — The mother of a young Kilauea man who lost his life after hitting a pole in Wailua last month says it’s just a matter of time until someone else dies or gets seriously hurt in the same place.
“There is something about that pole,” said Goretti Perdue, who on Tuesday was wearing a black baseball cap that read, “Smile be nice, Bruce Perdue, established 1989.”
Perdue said she knows of at a least three more accidents involving cars that hit the same pole, including one Saturday confirmed by county officials.
Kuhio Highway bends slightly near mile marker 7, right before the pole, which is about 4 feet away from the road. The smallest distraction, Perdue said, could send a driver head-first into the pole.
“The issue is, a lot of people crashed into that pole,” she said. “We are trying to do something to stop people from crashing into that pole.”
Bruce Perdue had just completed 23 years of life. A member of the Hawai‘i National Guard, he was getting ready to attend the University of Hawai‘i in the fall.
On May 21, Bruce Perdue was returning home after his shift at Duke’s Restaurant in Lihu‘e, when at about 2:30 a.m. his car slammed into an utility pole near Coconut Marketplace in Wailua.
His mother said he was killed instantly.
A large crowd attended to Bruce Perdue’s celebration of life June 2 at Kaua‘i Christian Academy in Kilauea, which included honors from the Hawai‘i National Guard and a paddle-out later at Kalihiwai Bay.
Perdue said she has no idea what caused her son’s accident. The police told her that there is a witness, but they are not releasing any names to avoid compromising the investigation, she said.
The police also know the name of a woman driving south who apparently crossed Bruce Perdue’s car moments before he hit the pole, according to Perdue.
Last Saturday a gold Jeep SUV veered off the highway and struck the same pole, severing it and causing major damage to the vehicle’s front end, according to Kaua‘i Police Department.
“Police arrested the 23-year-old driver of the SUV, Brett Renquist of Portland, Ore., for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant,” county spokeswoman Sarah Blane said.
The vehicle’s two passengers, a 23-year-old Kapa‘a man and a 26-year-old male from Portland, suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were transported to Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Lihu‘e, Blane said.
The outer northbound lane of the highway was closed for about 15 minutes to allow medical personnel and a towing company to respond, she said.
“A Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative utility crew also responded to the scene to stabilize the pole,” Blane said.
‘It will keep happening’
Regardless of the reasons that caused the fatal accident May 21, Perdue said if the pole stays where it is, people will still crash into it.
“It will keep happening,” she said. “Accidents will keep happening in that pole.”
At the bottom of the pole, a memorial that had been slowly growing for the last three weeks was in pieces on the ground following Saturday’s crash.
Scott Simon, executive director of corporate communications at Hawaiian Telcom, said the pole is jointly owned by Hawaiian Telcom and KIUC, but said he could not comment any further on an inquiry about potentially implementing safety measures in the area.
KIUC spokesperson Jim Kelly confirmed the co-op owns 50 percent of the pole and Hawaiian Telcom owns the other 50 percent.
“We’re talking to Hawaiian Telcom about whether the pole could be moved back from the road,” he said. “Guardrails and any safety improvements to the highway would be the responsibility of the state or county.”
The state Department of Transportation did not respond by press time to a request for comment on potentially adding safety measures in the area.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.