KAILUA-KONA — A Hawaii Fire Department veteran was killed in a three-vehicle crash Wednesday morning on Mamalahoa Highway near the North Kona-South Kohala boundary.
Fire Chief Darren Rosario confirmed the man had an 18-year career with the department. The West Hawaii resident recently was promoted to a fire captain position in East Hawaii, and was headed to work at the time of the fatal collision.
“A great man was taken way too soon and too young,” Rosario said Wednesday afternoon, referring to the veteran firefighter as having “always been a great asset to our department.”
Police on Wednesday evening identified the victim as 49-year-old David Alan Mahon of Kailua-Kona.
“At this time, we’re in heavy mourning and our hearts and prayers continue to be with his family at this time,” the fire chief said.
The fire captain was operating a 2016 purple Harley Davidson motorcycle and headed toward Waimea on Mamalahoa Highway, also known as Highway 190, when he collided with a Kona-bound 2006 Honda Pilot SUV near mile marker 14 at about 6:35 a.m., about 0.2 miles south of the highway’s intersection with Daniel K. Inouye Highway, said Hawaii Island police and fire officials.
Police said the Honda Pilot, operated by a 21-year-old Waimea man, was overtaking several southbound vehicles in a no-passing zone when it collided with the motorcycle. A third-vehicle, a 2014 white Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by a 49-year-old Waimea man, was also involved in the wreck.
Neither the 49-year-old man nor 21-year-old man were injured in the collision. Mahon was officially pronounced dead at 2:37 p.m. at Kona Community Hospital.
The 21-year-old is in police custody after being arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide and several other offenses in connection with the deadly crash. He is being detained at the Kona police cellblock.
The crash closed Mamalahoa Highway between Waikoloa Road in South Kohala and Makalei Fire Station in North Kona for hours as police investigated the scene before the roadway could be cleared. The road, one of two connectors between Kona and Waimea, reopened about 3 p.m.
News of Mahon’s death spread quickly.
At the request of Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, who is married to a firefighter, the County Council had a moment of silence to honor the victim at the start of Wednesday’s budget meeting in Hilo.
Kierkiewicz, somberly making the announcement, declined to name the firefighter at the time and said she couldn’t share more details.
Mayor Harry Kim was at the council meeting, sitting alongside Rosario, who he said confirmed what the mayor just heard.
“I know what I felt, total numbness, emptiness,” Kim said Wednesday afternoon. “And looking at (Rosario), and knowing he feels the same, I think we both expressed the same feeling in regards to such a deep, hollow feeling of losing a friend.”
Kim, whose own son, Garrett, is a battalion chief with the Fire Department, said the unexpected loss hits hard, especially given the tragedy occurred outside the job.
“I hate to say it, but you accept that kind of thing happening,” Kim explained, noting that first responders realize the risks the job entails. “But this kind of thing, this is different. How useless a situation to die like that.”
In the wake of the crash, support has poured in for the Fire Department, Rosario said.
“We’re very much grateful and appreciate all the phone calls of support and empathy to the department, and we just ask that everyone keep his family in their prayers as they try to process through this tragedy themselves,” he said.
The department also is processing the loss. Rosario said “it definitely has hit our department extremely hard.”
“The Fire Department is not just an occupation; we do become family real quick, so today we lost a family member,” he said. “We don’t treat each other as coworkers, we treat each other as brother and sister.”
When asked how the community can help, Rosario asked for prayers for the man’s family and to be careful on Big Island roads. He said it was too early to say what the department plans to do to help or honor the man.
“All we ask is for everyone to follow the rules of the road and drive safely,” he said.
Police ask anyone who might have witnessed the accident to contact Officer Jason Foxworthy at 326-4646, ext. 229. Those who prefer to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.
This is the eighth traffic fatality this year compared to 11 at this time last year.
Email Chelsea Jensen at email@example.com.