HONOLULU (KHON2) — Maui police responded to a car crash on Haleakala Highway Sunday evening. When officers arrived they found a 1941 Ford Woody station wagon destroyed. The 76-year-old male passenger was taken to a nearby hospital. The driver, identified as 76-year-old Linda Howlett of Kula, died at the scene.
“It’s unfortunate, anytime we have to go knock on someone’s door and let them know their loved ones never coming home it’s difficult,” said Lt. William Hankins of the Maui Police Department.
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Alcohol, speed, and drugs did not appear to be factors in the crash, instead the vehicle had a mechanical failure.
“Unfortunately, it had some dry rot in the rear tire,” said Lt. Hankins. “It caused a blowout, and the worst thing that you can do when you have a blowout is hit your brakes because what happens in crash dynamics is it spins the car around. So the car got spun. She hit the embankment, and it rolled over.”
Police say vintage cars aren’t made with the same safety features as cars nowadays like airbags and seat belts. In Sunday’s crash, the driver and passenger were wearing seat belts they installed themselves, but it wasn’t enough.
“Back in 1941, the whole car was built out of wood. There’s no crush, there’s no shell for anybody to survive in and unfortunately, the driver didn’t survive,” Lt. Hankins said.
Experts say these vintage vehicles were the first generation of cars after the horseless carriage.
“The steering was very loose, the brakes weren’t very good, the suspension had almost nothing to it.”
Police say the couple was coming from the County’s trick or trunk event when the crash happened.
“To everybody involved in the vintage car community and everybody who knows the Howlett family, we extend our deepest condolences,” Lt. Hankins said. “We’re going to do our best to wrap the investigation up and try and provide the best answers that we can for the family.”
This is the 15th traffic fatality for Maui County compared to six at the same time last year.