By CHELSEA JENSEN
PAHALA — A child and four adults are dead following a fiery two-vehicle crash that spared no lives Wednesday morning south of Pahala.
The child, identified by fire rescue personnel as a boy about 9 years old, was a rear-seat passenger in a four-door white 2012 Nissan Altima sedan that was traveling Kona-bound and carrying two other occupants when it swerved left, crossed the center line and collided head-on with a gray 2002 Ford F-350 dually pickup truck headed toward Hilo, said Hawaii Police Department Ka‘u District Capt. Andrew Burian and Hawaii Fire Department Acting Capt. Mike Murray.
The crash was reported about 10:15 a.m. near mile-marker 54, near Punaluu Stream Bridge, where the speed limit is 55 mph.
Burian said the crash happened on the Kona side of the bridge and both vehicles came to rest on the bridge, with the sedan lying nearly perpendicular to the road and the truck lying on its passenger side. No skid marks were visible from the Kona side.
The truck subsequently caught fire with a man and woman inside, killing them before firefighters arrived on the scene, according to the Hawaii Fire Department.
The sedan, carrying the child and two men, one of whom was estimated to be in his 40s and the other his 50s, sustained extensive front-end damage and all airbags deployed in the crash. The men died before firefighters arrived at the scene. Murray said the occupants were likely visitors to the island.
The child, found unrestrained and unresponsive, was transported in critical condition by medics to Ka‘u Hospital, where they met with a Hawaii County helicopter that transported the child to Kona Community Hospital, according to the Hawaii Fire Department. Police later said the child died in the afternoon.
Traffic investigators were unable to be reached for further information as of press time Wednesday. However, a police statement said four negligent homicide cases and a coroner’s inquest was initiated.
Firefighters and police remained on the scene for about six hours investigating the crash and removing victims from the vehicles, prompting the closure of Highway 11, the sole means of traversing the Ka‘u district.
The road reopened shortly before 4:30 p.m., according to police.
The deaths bring the Big Island’s public road fatality count to seven so far this year, according to police. There were no fatalities at this point in 2012.
Email Chelsea Jensen at email@example.com.