ANAHOLA — Kala’e Rapozo has spent a total five hours on the side of the road since Saturday afternoon, returning time and time again to a memorial that’s been growing along Kuhio Highway in front of the Whalers General Store.
“I just keep coming back, leaving for a while, and coming back,” she said Monday afternoon, still standing strong in her vigil to commemorate the lives of Ryder Kaui, Max Jonah and Tyler Bigno — the three young men who were killed in a single-vehicle crash that occurred between the store and Anahola Bridge about 12:20 a.m. Saturday.
According to preliminary investigations, Kaui, Jonah, and Bigno were traveling in a gray Toyota pickup truck, going south through Anahola at a high rate of speed when they crossed into the northbound lane, hit a guardrail and flipped the vehicle. They came to a stop upside-down near the Whalers General Store, according to Kauai Police Department.
Two other occupants were in the car and survived non-life-threatening injuries.
Kuhio Highway was closed in both directions for roughly six hours as police investigated the scene. The highway was reopened shortly after 6:20 a.m., according to a news release from KPD.
Rapozo isn’t the only one who has been creating the memorial to honor the three “Kauai Boyz”; dozens of students, teachers and community members have been stopping by since Saturday, leaving autographed jerseys and T-shirts, flowers and balloons, and signs with writings saying “Rest in Love”, “#bigzzz”, and other personal messages.
As she stood there, action in the parking lot of the Whalers General Store never stopped. Cars navigated around the crowded lot, their drivers trying to park for a short time to come pay respects to the three young men, one of whom was 20 years old and the other two 16. Neighbors, classmates and friends arrived in groups of twos and threes, taking a moment to themselves before reaching out to whoever was standing next to them for a hug.
“Fly High Ryder Boy….” Rebecca Hart read a message stickered on a pair of motocross goggles and wrapped around a nearby fire hydrant. “I was his teacher. I remember I DJ’d at one of his school dances. He asked me to play a slow song so he could ask a girl to dance with him. So sweet.”
Charlee Baldwin was closest out of the three to Ryder, and she said he was a ray of sunshine with a dynamic personality.
“Ryder, he’d lighten up the room. Always made you laugh,” Baldwin said. “He was too young. They all were.”
Rapozo also said that upbeat demeanor was what she’d remember most about all three of the young men — all of whom were her friends.
“They all had great smiles,” she said. “They all were that way. No matter if they had a good day or not, they always had a smile on their faces.”
All three of the young men were true Kauai boys, according to those who knew them, their photos show them fishing and riding dirt bikes, and being involved in local organizations like the Waipa Foundation.
No one knows for sure how long the memorial along Kuhio Highway will continue to grow, but officials caution drivers to slow down in the area because people are crossing the road frequently.
A memorial cruise is scheduled in memory of Ryder, Max and Tyler for Dec. 8 and will be an opportunity for the community to gather at the memorial.
The convoy is set to start at 11:30 a.m. at Haena Beach Park and end at the crash site by Whalers General Store. Organizers encourage everyone who would like to join to bring leis and flowers, as well as anything else they’d like to contribute to the memorial. Join the community after the convoy for a talk story session and a cookout at Anahola Beach.