Chain-Reaction Crash Kills Police Officer, Girl
Officer Down: Ryan K. Goto - [Honolulu, Hawaii]
|By Curtis Lum and Will Hoover, The Honolulu Advertiser|
A Honolulu Police Department motorcycle officer and a 10-year-old girl were killed yesterday morning near Honokai Hale in a chain-reaction accident set off by a box that fell in the road.
Police involved in the crash and motorists helped pull a number of victims out of harm's way.
The officer was identified as Ryan K. Goto, 35, a 12-year-veteran of the force. The girl's name was not released yesterday.
Five motorcycle officers were involved in the accident, the worst ever for the motorcycle patrol unit.
Goto and the other officers were Wai'anae-bound on Farrington Highway to conduct traffic enforcement.
Shortly before 10 a.m., a Dodge Stratus in the right Honolulu-bound lane on Farrington Highway near La'aloa Street slowed and swerved to avoid a cardboard box that had fallen off a vehicle. As the driver slowed, her car was struck from behind by a white Ford Mustang. The collision sent the Stratus across the grass median and into the path of the five officers.
Police Chief Lee Donohue said the five motorcycles were in formation, two abreast with the fifth officer riding alone in the back row. Goto was in the lead position in the front row on the left, Donohue said.
Three motorcycles struck the Stratus, sending all three officers across the highway and into a brush area on the mauka side of the highway, Donohue said. The two other officers managed to avoid a collision, he said.
The 10-year-old girl was a passenger in the Stratus. Two other girls, ages 9 and 11, in the Dodge were taken to Pali Momi Medical Center in good condition, police said.
Gasoline from the crashed motorcycles apparently ignited the dry brush along the highway, and several passersby and the two other officers rushed to save the others.
"Officers who were able to avoid the collision returned and were pulling their officers out of harm's way. The fire was very intense," Donohue said. Motorists who had pulled over also helped remove victims from the Stratus, he said.
Randy Ramos of Wai'anae said he was heading east on Farrington Highway and saw the accident unfold. He said he noticed a large box that had fallen off a white pickup truck in the middle of the road a quarter-mile away.
Ramos said the driver of the Stratus lost control after her car was hit and plowed into the motorcycle officers. He said he pulled to the side and rushed over to offer assistance.
"I took the two girls from the back seat in the green car (Stratus), and then I ran across the street and started helping the officers," he said. "And then other people started to come and brothers and uncles started helping me pull the cops out. All three of them were in the bushes."
Ramos said he and the others were able to get the three officers away from the flames. But he said he noticed that the last officer they pulled from the bushes was not breathing.
He said the passenger side of the Stratus was so damaged that the door wouldn't open, but helpers were able to get a young girl in the passenger seat out through the driver's door.
Two other motorcycle officers, David Bega and Paul Javier, were injured in the accident. The woman who was driving the Stratus also was seriously injured.
All were taken to The Queen's Medical Center where the officers were in guarded condition. The woman's condition was not available.
Goto and the 10-year-old girl were taken to St. Francis Medical Center-West where they were pronounced dead. Donohue said the other two officers suffered broken bones and spinal injuries.
Donohue and members of his staff went to St. Francis to comfort Goto's fiancée and family.
"It's a sad day for us. It's a tragedy. We lost one officer, but the blessing is that we could have lost more," Donohue said. "Our hearts go out to all the families touched by this tragedy and our prayers are with all of them."
He described Goto, a single parent, as a "great" officer who was very friendly and "always had a smile on his face."
Goto had been with the traffic division since 1998.
It was the second time in four months that Donohue made a sad journey to the 'Ewa hospital. On March 4, officer Glen Gaspar, 40, was shot and killed as he struggled to arrest an attempted-murder suspect inside the Baskin-Robbins shop in Kapolei Shopping Center.
The last motorcycle officer who was killed in the line of duty was Randal Young in 1991. Young was killed by a drunken driver as he issued a ticket on the Pali Highway.
Donohue said yesterday's accident was the worst involving motorcycle officers. In October 2001, three patrol officers were injured when they hit a metal light pole that had fallen across Pali Highway.
Since 1923, 11 motorcycle officers have been killed while on duty. Goto was the 38th Honolulu police officer killed in the line of duty.
"You just never know when it's going to happen," Donohue said. "The officers that I talked to, we're grieving right now. We lost another officer this year."
The highway between Kapolei and Honokai Hale was closed while police conducted their investigation. East-bound traffic moved at a crawl along an open shoulder lane. Westbound traffic was rerouted along Old Farrington Highway, which is normally closed to through traffic.
By 11:30 a.m., both eastbound lanes reopened, but westbound motorists inched along at a snail's pace for much of the afternoon.