(BIVN) – An adult male died on Saturday, after he apparently drove his vehicle off the shoulder of Highway 19 on the Hāmākua coast, crashing and a deep ravine below the Nanue Bridge.
Hawai‘i Island police are investigating the single-vehicle crash that was reported on Saturday morning at 9:37 a.m., reporting:
Investigators have determined that a 2020 Ford Edge SUV traveling north (Waimea-bound) on Highway 19 appears to have veered onto the right shoulder while approaching the bridge and proceeded north off the cliff, striking the bridge’s support column before coming to a rest in the ravine below. At the time of the collision the roadways did not appear to be wet, however it had been overcast in the area.
The Hawaiʻi Fire Department says first responders “found the single vehicle ablaze on the streambed below the Nanue Bridge”. The department’s Chopper 1 inserted fire and police teams “to search for victims and initiate investigation”. Police noted that without Fire Department assistance, access to the vehicle and scene would not have been possible.
An adult male, believed to be the vehicle driver, was located at the scene unresponsive. He was transported to Hilo Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 2:02 p.m. An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death. He will remain unidentified pending positive identification and notification of his next of kin.
Police say they believe that speed is a primary factor in this collision, however “further investigation will be conducted relative to any additional contributing factors.”
Following the crash, the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation announced that Nanue Bridge “will be weight restricted to 12 tons” and that “the makai (northbound) lane over the bridge near mile marker 18 will be closed until a structural inspection can be completed.” Traffic in both directions will be managed by flaggers, the DOT said.
“HDOT is taking these actions out of an abundance of caution,” a state news release said. “The structural inspection will take place Sunday, Feb. 6. An update will be provided upon completion of the inspection.”
Police say the East Hawaii Traffic Enforcement Unit has initiated a coroner’s inquest investigation, which is pending. Police ask that anyone who may have witnessed the accident or who has information on it, to please contact Officer Blayne Matsui at (808) 961-2339 or via email Blayne.Matsui@HawaiiCounty.gov. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at (808) 961-8300.
This is the seventh fatal traffic collision of 2022 compared to three fatal traffic collisions during this same time period last year, police report.