KAILUA-KONA — Two teenage girls continue to recuperate at an Oahu hospital after being seriously injured in a Sunday afternoon crash that claimed the life of a mother of four.
Friends Kawena Haserot and Taylor Campogan, both 15, remained hospitalized Tuesday in serious but stable condition at The Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu.
“They were really close,” said Laurel Haserot, who has been at her daughter Kawena’s side since the teens were flown to Oahu in critical condition Sunday following the crash that also injured Campogan’s 10-year-old sister and killed Campogan’s mother, 35-year-old Cassandra “Cassie” Lynn Ellis.
Laurel Haserot said Tuesday that her daughter suffered a fractured femur and fractures to her pelvis. The teen underwent surgery Monday and was recovering Tuesday.
Haserot said her daughter is starting to understand things better, and was informed that Ellis died in the crash.
“She knows that her friend’s mom passed away, but she doesn’t know the details of the accident,” she said.
Injuries suffered by Campogan have not been released. Campogan’s sister was released after treatment at Kona Community Hospital.
On Tuesday, John Lim Jr., Ellis’ significant other and father of her 2-year-old daughter, said Campogan was recovering but did not elaborate.
In addition to her own four daughters, Ellis was also hanai mother to Lim’s son.
“Cassie was one of the best mother’s I’ve ever known,” he said. “I don’t know how these kids are going to get a mother remotely close to what she was.”
He said his daughter continues to ask for her mother.
“I don’t think she will understand that,” he said about telling the toddler about her mother’s passing. “I can’t bring mom here. I can show her a picture, a video, but I can’t physically …”
The crash was reported at 2:10 p.m. Sunday near mile marker 90 on Queen Kaahumanu Highway. According to police, Ellis was operating a northbound gray 2015 Honda Pilot when the vehicle collided head-on with a black 2017 Jeep Renegade being driven by 25-year-old Nicholas Abarcar of Waimea, who was headed southbound.
Police say the Jeep was passing another vehicle when it collided with Ellis’ SUV, which was carrying the three girls on their way to Kua Bay.
Abarcar was also injured and treated at Kona Community Hospital, according to police. He was later arrested on suspicion of first-degree negligent homicide, DUI, reckless driving and three counts of first-degree negligent injury in connection with the crash. Police said in a press release speed and drugs might have played a role.
After conferring with prosecutors, who declined to immediately press charges, Abarcar was released pending further investigation.
Concerns and questions about Abarcar’s release flooded social media and conversations in the community. Abarcar was convicted of DUI in 2018.
Haserot said her two sons are upset with Abarcar’s release and his history.
“They’re taking it hard. They are really sad to see their sister hurting,” she said. “And they’re really angry at this guy, who apparently it is not his first time doing this, driving under the influence.”
Area II Assistant Police Chief Robert Wagner said prosecutors requested more investigation. Among that were mechanical inspections of the vehicle and accident reconstruction, as well as tracking down possible witnesses to the crash and obtaining medical records for the injured.
Per state law, police have 48 hours from the time of arrest to file charges against a suspect or that person must be released pending investigation.
“Before we charge these cases, we need to know what evidence we have,” said Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth. “We don’t want to charge a misdemeanor when someone may be liable for a Class B felony.”
Charges, if brought, will come via indictment by a grand jury.
Meanwhile Tuesday, GoFundMe accounts continued to raise funds for the injured girls, as well as for medical and funeral expenses for Ellis. By 5 p.m., nearly $25,000 had been raised between the three crowdsourcing campaigns.
Haserot thanked the community for the support following the crash.
“I just thank everybody who was there on the scene helping. I thank everybody in our community,” she said. “Just the love and support that we feel from even strangers, I didn’t even know that was there for us.”
Anyone who might have witnessed the crash should contact Officer Kelsey Kobayashi at 326-4646, ext. 229, or 339-5651. Those who prefer to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.
Email Chelsea Jensen at email@example.com.