By CHELSEA JENSEN
A 20-year-old Hilo woman is dead and four others are injured following a two-car crash that police and fire personnel suspect involved alcohol late Friday on Queen Kaahumanu Highway in North Kona.
The victim has been identified as Christine C. R. Laeda, according to the Hawaii Police Department.
Laeda was a rear-seat passenger in a northbound 2005 Toyota four-door sedan reportedly driven by a 20-year-old Hilo woman, according to police. The vehicle had three other passengers, a 20-year-old Hilo woman and two Keaau women, ages 19 and 22.
The crash occurred about 11:56 p.m. when the 20-year-old driver reportedly attempted to pass a full-size 2006 Chrysler four-door sedan, but clipped the Chrysler’s rear left corner near mile marker 91, in the vicinity of the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, according to police. The driver then lost control of the vehicle, which ran off the road and overturned.
Laeda, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle, according to police. No information was available on whether the four other occupants were restrained.
The four were taken to Kona Community Hospital where they were treated for minor injuries and released, according to police. Laeda was pronounced dead at 2:47 a.m. at the hospital. An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of her death.
Alcohol was found within and outside the Toyota, according to a Hawaii Fire Department official. Police also noted alcohol and speed were likely contributing factors.
The man driving the Chrysler, a 37-year-old from California, and his two female passengers, ages 36 and 27, were not injured, according to police and the fire department.
The 20-year-old driver of the Toyota was arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide, negligent injury, driving under the influence of an intoxicant, possessing an open container and prohibited acts involving a minor, according to police. She was released Saturday morning pending further investigation.
Queen Kaahumanu Highway was closed shortly after midnight while police and fire rescue personnel remained on the scene. Traffic was detoured via Waikoloa Road and Mamalahoa Highway until the Queen Kaahumanu Highway reopened several hours later.
Twenty people have been killed on public Big Island roads this year compared with 12 at this point in 2011 — a 66.7 percent increase, according to police.
Anyone with information on the crash should call Officer Larry Flowers at 326-4646, ext. 229. Those who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 329-8181 in Kona or 961-8300 in Hilo.