Fatality: "Mopeds were his life,"

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Fatality: "Mopeds were his life,"

Postby Micronaut » Sat May 06, 2006 6:53 pm

Moped death stuns a community

http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/ ... /1001/NEWS

WAIMANALO — The death of an underage moped driver in a traffic collision this week is raising concerns about young people driving the motorized cycles illegally on Windward highways and roads.
Even before Travis "Kila" Guerrero, 14, was struck by a vehicle outside Waimanalo Town Center Sunday, police said they were receiving complaints of underage moped drivers. Most of the complaints arise when six to 10 underage drivers get together and ride down the street.
Kila's case was different. He was alone on the evening a truck, turning left, struck and killed him. Police reports say Kila was wearing dark clothes and the moped he was riding had no lights, two possible contributing factors. Kila was not wearing a helmet, the report said.
On Thursday, his parents and friends set up a memorial near the 7-Eleven where he was killed.

Kila would have been 15 on Tuesday.

"My son Kila, he touched so many lives from kindergartners all the way to guys older than me," said Lawrence Guerrero. "Even the staff at the hospital said they could tell he was unique and could feel the love going both ways. He was so special."
Mopeds, Guerrero said, were a big part of his son's life. He was highly regarded for his ability to fix them, something he'd been doing since he was 8.
"He could take the whole moped apart, or if it were apart, he could put it back and get it running," Lawrence Guerrero said, adding that adults would come to his home seeking his son's expertise.
"Mopeds were his life," said Hoku Guerrero, his older sister.

Hawai'i state law states that only licensed drivers older than 15 1/2 are permitted to operate mopeds on public streets.
"Underage riding on the street is a problem," said Lt. John Cheong, with the Kailua police station. "It's also a problem with my officers. We need to use discretion. If we spook a youngster and cause them to flee, they could hurt themselves by spilling their bike."
The problem is not unique to Waimanalo, Cheong said, and officers have been trying to curb the situation by issuing citations for unlicensed driving. In some cases, they take kids home to their parents. The department doesn't track how many moped citations are issued, Cheong said.
Jimmy Torres, who operates the Waimanalo Teen Center and teaches teens how to operate and fix motorcycles, said the problem with mopeds is that they are treated like bicycles by the state — no insurance, safety check or special training is required, he said.
"It's regulated like a toy," Torres said. "I think they should treat mopeds like motorcycles."
Torres said he's seen underage kids in "trains" of three to six mopeds on the highway, slowing traffic and driving erratically. Some will bob and weave through traffic, cutting through gas stations to avoid waiting in line, he said, adding that he sees that kind of driving all over the island.

Moped use has been on the rise around the island in part because higher gas prices have forced people to look for cheaper transportation than cars. Mopeds can get 150 miles to the gallon and line the bike racks at Hawai'i Pacific University and other schools.

Cheong said people are reporting children as young as 10, 11 and 12 riding mopeds on the streets and highways.
Annual moped deaths in the past five years have fluctuated from a low of one in 2004 to a high of eight last year, according to figures provided by the state Department of Health and county police departments.

Before Sunday's accident, no one younger than 19 had died from a moped collision from 2000 to 2004, said Dan Galanis, epidemiologist with the Health Department's Injury Prevention Control Program. During that time, 19 people died in moped accidents, Galanis said in an e-mail.

But while youth fatalities have been rare, about 10 percent of the 1,277 major traffic crashes involving mopeds from 2000 to 2004 involved drivers 10 to 17 years old, Galanis said, noting that a major accident is one that results in injury or cumulative property damage of $3,000 or more. A major accident almost always — 93 percent of the time— involves "possible" injury or worse, he said.

Helmet status was known for 90 percent of the drivers in Galanis' data. Ninety-three percent of the moped drivers involved in major accidents were not wearing helmets. Similarly, drivers 10 to 17 years old were not wearing helmets in 92 percent of the reported accidents.

On Tuesday, Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law a bill that requires helmets for minors driving mopeds.
Health Department officials said they didn't have moped statistics for 2005, but according to county police departments, eight people died in moped crashes in 2005.
Police said Kila was traveling south on Kalaniana'ole Highway at about 9 p.m. when he collided with a truck that was heading north and making a left turn into the parking lot of the 7-Eleven store.

Yesterday, his family continued to deal with their loss.

Yvette Guerrero, Kila's mother, said she didn't want her son riding on the streets, and she had warned him not to do it.
"He wasn't supposed to ride the moped," Yvette Guerrero said. "I didn't approve of it. But kids are kids, and he had a talent. That's how he learned math," from working on the machines.

On Thursday, Kila's friends and family gathered at a shrine outside the 7-Eleven store. Both parents were at the store at the time of the accident. His mother was waiting in their truck and his father was inside.

Kila was loved by many, his father said, pointing to a utility pole that held signs, letters, flowers and balloons. More than two dozen people gathered there, writing notes to Kila, comforting his parents, siblings and other relatives, and in return being comforted. Traffic crawled past the shrine with people calling out their condolences and offering help.

Kila's friends Kaleo Abero, 14, and Kaipo Saizon, 15, said he was generous, a good student, friendly and fun-loving. Both of them had written notes on dollar bills they would nail to the pole in remembrance of his generosity. Kaleo's note said "Always in my Heart."

"He had a big heart," Kaleo said. "Real big. It was bigger than the word big."
Though Kila was declared dead late Wednesday morning, he was kept on life support until 3:30 p.m. Thursday to preserve his organs so they could be donated to at least three recipients.

Lawrence Guerrero said sharing Kila's organs will help the family cope with his loss because they know that although they are suffering, there are other families who will rejoice in the gift of life, and in a small way, his son will live on through them. He said he also hopes the donations will comfort Kila's friends.

"Each recipient who's going to receive that gift of life will automatically become a part of our family," Guerrero said Thursday evening at the shrine.

Kila is survived by his parents, Lawrence and Yvette; grandmother, Josephine Guerrero; grandfather, George Fukuoka; sister Hoku, 18; and brothers, Ikaika, 14, and Alika, 10.

A service was pending.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.

HAWAI'I MOPED DEATHS
2000 — 4
2001 — 5
2002 — 2
2003 — 7
2004 — 1
2005 — 8
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Micronaut
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