KAILUA-KONA — A 25-year-old Waimea man, who was arrested Sunday on suspicion of negligent homicide and DUI following a two-car crash near Kekaha Kai State Park in Kona that killed a 35-year-old mother and hospitalized three girls, has a prior conviction for drunken driving.
Nicholas Abarcar was driving a black 2017 Jeep Renegade SUV southbound on Queen Kaahumanu Highway when he passed a vehicle and collided head-on with a northbound gray 2015 Honda Pilot SUV on Sunday, about a quarter-mile north of mile marker 90, according to police. The crash was reported at 2:10 p.m. north of the entrance of the state park.
The crash killed 35-year-old Cassandra “Cassie” Lynn Ellis of Kailua-Kona, who police identified Monday as the victim. Ellis was driving the Honda.
The accident also sent three of the passengers in Ellis’ vehicle, two girls both age 15 and one 10-year-old girl, to Kona Community Hospital.
Abarcar taken to Kona Community Hospital for treatment of undisclosed injuries, according to police.
Abarcar was arrested on suspicion of first-degree negligent homicide, DUI, reckless driving and three counts first-degree negligent injury in connection with the Sunday afternoon crash. After conferring with prosecutors, who declined to immediately press charges, Abarcar was released without charges pending further investigation.
An autopsy was ordered to determine the exact cause of Ellis’ death.
According to court records, Abarcar pleaded no contest May 15, 2018, to DUI. The now-25-year-old was arrested and charged with DUI and driving without a license following a traffic stop Aug. 22, 2017.
He was sentenced to pay $312 in fines and fees, $350 in restitution and complete driver’s education and a substance abuse rehabilitation program. His license also was revoked from Sept. 22, 2017-Sept. 21, 2018.
Police suspect speed and drugs played a role in the fatal crash that closed Queen Kaahumanu Highway between Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole and Waikoloa Road until shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday while police investigated the scene.
On Monday, police said the two 15-year-old girls suffered severe injuries in the wreck and were later flown to The Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu for further treatment. Both were listed in critical condition when transported to the Honolulu facility.
By Monday afternoon, the conditions of the two teenage girls was upgraded to serious but stable, according to Sean Ibara, coordinator for corporate communications at The Queen’s Medical Center. No additional information was available.
Friends of the victim described the woman as beautiful, hardworking and dedicated to her four daughters.
“An amazing, beautiful, wonderful person, woman, daughter, sister, mother,” said Beth Morin. “It’s absolutely devastating.”
Morin, who met Ellis and three of her children while working with Ellis’ ex-husband about six years ago, worked for Ellis’ company, Two Chicks Cleaning Services, earlier this year.
“We became very close. She always supported me. Our friendship grew in a very short time,” said Morin.
Morin learned Ellis was killed in the Sunday crash after receiving a message on Facebook from a coworker. She said she was on her way to Kua Bay at the time and was turned around at the airport because of the crash.
“She’ll be forever remembered. She was an amazing person. She did everything and everything she could to help the people who were around her and it’s tragic,” Morin said. “It’s absolutely tragic.”
By Monday afternoon, a memorial for Ellis was set up on the mauka side of the highway.