Teens injured in deadly Big Island crash speak out about driving under the influence

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Two Hawaii Island teens involved in a horrific crash over the weekend are now speaking out about getting behind the wheel under the influence.

Hawaii Island police said a 25-year-old man driving a Jeep Renegade overtook another vehicle on Queen Kaahumanu Highway around 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, and crashed head-on into Cassie Lynn Ellis’ vehicle. They believe drugs and speeding were factors in the crash.

Inside Ellis’ car were her two daughters, Trinity (10), and Taylor (15). Also in the backseat was Taylor’s best friend Kawena Haserot (15).

The 10-year-old, who was sitting in the passenger seat of Ellis’ Honda Pilot, was taken to Kona Community Hospital and released a few hours after the crash.

Taylor and Kawena were airlifted to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu in critical condition. Within a day or two, they were in serious but stable condition.

Both teens were ready to speak about their recovery to KHON2 on Thursday afternoon, but not ready to show their scars from the crash.

The high school sophomores said they don’t remember the deadly crash. The last thing they remembered was going to Matsuyama’s and another nearby café and listening to music in the back seat.

That’s when the 25-year-old crashed into them.

Good Samaritans stopped and helped the girls out of the car before the vehicle caught on fire.

The teens were found unconscious and flown to Queen’s Medical Center.

Once they woke up, Taylor was told her mother didn’t make it and the driver that hit them was under the influence of an intoxicant.

Taylor had this message to all drivers who want to get behind the wheel when impaired:

“I hope that before they get behind that wheel they think about if they’re ready to have that weight—have that gravity—over their head. Not only did they ruin their own life, but they also get into that car behind the wheel with the possibility of ruining somebody else’s life,” she said.

Both girls are still processing what happened, but Campogan told KHON2 her life was changed in an instant.

“I really just kind of want to get that message out whatever we can do to advocate about drunk driving and how drugs really impact, they can really change a person’s life,” she said.

Her message to the driver:

“If I could talk to him before he got behind the wheel I would just tell him it wasn’t worth it because he has had previous DUI’s and it’s not that hard to find another ride home, there’s plenty taxis you can call, or there are other ways to get home and it’s really just not worth it to take that risk,” she said.

“Personally, I feel if I could talk to drivers before they get behind the wheel, I would want to make sure they know what they’re about to do and the weight of it—like are they ready to hold that weight over themselves?”

The girls are recovering quickly and hope to get back to their favorite sports when they fully heal.

In the meantime, their close friends have been flying from Kona to visit them at the hospital.

Taylor said wrestling and hula have been her motivation to recovering quickly.

“It helps you learn to keep pushing and to stay strong because even in your worst moments you still have it, you still can finish it,” she said.

The best friends are on the same floor but in different rooms at the hospital and are able to see one another.

“She’s like my soul mate, she’s everything to me,” said Haserot on her friendship with Taylor.

Haserot said she probably won’t be able to swim for a while due to a broken femur, but hopes to help coach in the meantime.

The girls are expected to be released from the hospital by the weekend, but still, have a long road of recovery.

The 25-year-old man was released pending investigation.

A GoFundMe has been started for Taylor and Kawena to help with medical bills.

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