HONOLULU (KHON2) — Flowers and signs still mark the intersection where police said 16-year-old Sara Yara was hit by a truck while walking to school.
Police said the driver ran a red light. The community is still shaken by the teen’s death and is even taking matters into its own hands, calling for change.
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House Speaker Scott Saiki, Mayor Blangiardi and other officials met at McKinley High School, just next to where the student died last week while crossing Kapiolani Boulevard in a marked crosswalk.
“I’m trying to make the chances of this never happening again lessen, because Sara was in our youth group at church and it’s just sad and I’m trying to do what I can to help,” said Chris, a volunteer crosswalk guard.
“Within a two-week time frame, we’ll be able to install a raised crosswalk or speed humps, whatever looks the best in those areas immediately,” said Ed Sniffen, Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Designate.
“If we put in speed humps, we’ll be reducing the speed limit to 25mph and right now it’s 25mph during school hours,” said Roger Morton, City Department of Transportation Services Director. “If we put in speed humps, we’ll just lower the speed. Frankly, I’ve asked my folks to look at the entire Kapiolani Boulevard which is a 35mph speed zone right now to see if it makes sense to do that.”
The suspect turned himself in Thursday night, Feb. 16; but police released him pending further investigation. Sara’s mother said it’s frustrating knowing the suspect is still out there but prefers not to dwell on the negative.
According to HDOT, work will begin for the red-light cameras at the intersection of Kapiolani Boulevard and Kamakee Street starting Monday.
“That’s not what my daughter would have wanted. My daughter wants me to think of the positive and the outcome beyond what the circumstances are right now. I have enough people out there that’s angry about it. I don’t need to be angry,” said Chevy Sanatian, Sara’s mother.
The Honolulu Police Department stated, as of Monday, there have been 10 traffic fatalities and 12 critical traffic incidents this year. Experts said, despite the expected changes, it takes the whole community to keep each other safe on the road.
Speaker Saiki said that the state DOT will implement several changes in the next 30 days.
“This is not a law enforcement problem, this is not a legislative problem, it’s a community problem,” said Ret. Lt. William Hankins, member of the Hawaii Highways Safety Council and former Maui Police Department Traffic Commander. “Everybody needs to get involved with this.”
Elevated crosswalks will be put in place on Pensacola Street between King Street and Kapiolani, similar to what is on Pali Highway.
An elevated crosswalk will also be constructed at the Kamakee and Kapiolani intersection, along with a red light camera.
The DOT will also conduct an engineering study to determine how they could place a left turn signal at the same intersection.
“Please be responsible, please slow down, please follow our traffic laws,” said Rep. Scott Saiki, (D) House Speaker. “As we have seen here, innocent people will pay the price for our failure to do so.”
Yara’s death remains under investigation.