Survivor of Tuesday's crash talks about ordeal

Published On: Nov 22 2012 06:04:00 PM HST
EWA BEACH, Hawaii -

Landa Jeffrey, 41, survived mortar attacks at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan during her deployment with the U.S. Air Force in 2010.

However, the 20-year veteran never would have guessed a near-death experience would take place a half-mile from her Ewa Beach home.

"I'm alive, my family's here (and) it's a beautiful day in Hawaii," Jeffrey told KITV4.

On Tuesday, Jeffrey had just turned down Kaimalie Street from Ft. Weaver Road when the 16-year-old driver of a GMC Envoy slammed head-on into her Porsche SUV at about 1:30 p.m. Jeffrey had been returning from Whole Foods in Kailua where she picked up a turkey for Thanksgiving.

The collision killed 14-year-old Kawehi Adkins-Kupukaa of Ewa Beach, a front-seat passenger in the GMC. A rear-seat passenger, 15-year-old Johnoven Kawika Lagon, was taken to the hospital, as was the driver, Brandon Harris.

Jeffrey suffered a severe fracture to her wrist, which will eventually need surgery.  She said the vehicle bearing down on her had already lost control, and she had no time to react.

"The vehicle was leaning (and) it was already in my lane," said Jeffrey.  "I don't know how fast he was going, but I don't believe I've ever seen a vehicle go that fast down there."

It took firefighters about a half-hour to remove Jeffrey from her SUV. Emergency responders told her she may not have survived had she been driving a smaller vehicle.

"The whole cab stayed very intact," said Jeffrey. "I looked at that and I just felt so lucky to be alive."

On a day the entire nation pauses to give thanks, Jeffrey is most grateful for her 8-year-old daughter Alyssa and husband Michael.  She said the collision has given her a new lease on life.

"I'm so thankful for my family, and to have my family here and safe," said Jeffrey.

Still, Jeffrey realizes other families whose children were involved in the accident are going through tremendous pain.

Harris, the driver of the GMC Envoy, remains hospitalized in critical condition as police investigate whether he was drunk at the time.  Traffic investigators say speed and alcohol were factors in the crash.

Meanwhile, the parents of Adkins-Kupukaa are in mourning as they plan funeral services for their teenage daughter.

"The idea of your child being hurt, much less killed, it's just a horrible, horrible thing to think about," said Jeffrey, her voice cracking with emotion.  "I hate for any family to have to think of that."


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