KAPAA — Wailana Varney said her family is slowly healing after losing one of their members in a car wreck.
“We’re past the shock a little bit,” she said. “It’s been hard; we’re all heartbroken. My grandma, she seems to be doing OK, and my grandpa says he’s taking it one day at a time.”
But a memorial service for Kayla Huddy-Lemn hasn’t even happened yet.
“So when that time comes, it’s the time to really say good-bye,” Varney said. “While we’ve gotten past the initial reaction to what happened, I think it’ll really hit everybody when we have to physically let her go.”
On April 27, at about 10:45 p.m., Huddy-Lemn, 19, was heading north on Kuhio Highway near the Courtyards at Waipouli when an oncoming Nissan pickup crossed the center line and struck her Mazda sedan head-on, according to police reports.
Huddy-Lemn, who lived in Kapaa, was killed at the scene. The driver of the Nissan, Cody Safadago, fled on foot.
Safadago, who police say stole the Nissan from a home on Makaha Road in Kapaa just before the wreck, was arrested on April 28.
Originally from Washington state, Safadago remains at Kauai Community Correctional Center on a $1 million bail and is scheduled to appear before District Court Judge Michael Soong on May 18 for a preliminary hearing.
Safadago has been indicted by a grand jury on a manslaughter charge. He is set to be arraigned today on that and other charges, including negligent homicide, accident involving death or serious injury, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, resisting arrest using physical force, DUI, reckless driving, inattention to driving and driving without a valid license.
Varney, who is Huddy-Lemn’s first cousin, cried when she heard the news.
“Her mom and my mom are sisters. I’m the oldest of the grandkids, so she was like a little sister to me,” Varney said.
Varney saw Huddy-Lemn on family vacations and and other gatherings.
“I remember her being super sweet and getting into stuff,” she said. “She was a good, respectable girl. She was always super loving and caring.”
Huddy-Lemn grew up on Kauai with her grandparents and went to Kamehameha Schools on Oahu.
“That was a proud cousin moment,” Varney said. “Of all of us, she was the only one to pursue it. I was happy for her to get off island and get an education at a good school.”
Huddy-Lemn later went to college in Oregon for a semester.
“I was super proud of her for leaving Hawaii and experiencing life,” Varney said.
Ever since the wreck,Varney has had a memory of Huddy-Lemn as a baby on her mind.
“My mom and aunt wanted me to watch her and my brother because they wanted to go Christmas shopping,” she said.
“I remember laying next to them by the tree, looking up at lights. I always remember that because it was special to be enjoying something so simple. For some reason, I remember that the most.”
The day after the wreck, Varney started a gofundme account called “Justice for Kayla” to raise money for funeral expenses.
“I started it, kind of thinking ‘We’ll see what kind of donations we can get.’ I was so shocked how much people donated and how many people donated,” Varney said.
As of Friday, the page raised $8,018 of its $8,000 goal.
“I was amazed, but at the same time it doesn’t surprise me because Kauai is such a small island, and everyone knows everyone,” Varney said.
Varney said she started the page as a way to take action.
“I was still super sad, but I got a fight in me. It’s time to get justice for her,” she said.
A memorial service is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 10 at Anahola Church. The public is welcome to attend.