Woman unresponsive in ICU after hit by vehicle while in crosswalk
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The driver of a vehicle that struck a woman while crossing in the pedestrian crosswalk in front of the drive to the Fagatogo Central Police Station last Friday night was arrested and is now being charged.
Benjamin Toa made his initial appearance before District Court Judge Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde on Tuesday morning. He's represented by Public Defender Michael White while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Robert Morrison III.
He is charged with one count of second degree assault, a class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both; along with one count of reckless driving causing bodily injury, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of $1,000, or both. He’s also facing two traffic citations.
Toa appeared in court yesterday morning for his preliminary examination (PX) where his attorney informed the court his client wishes to exercise his constitutional rights to a PX.
Bail is set at $5,000 and PX is set for June 18th at 10a.m.
On the night of June 4th, 2021, the lead investigator in this matter received a phone call from the Fagatogo Police Headquarters (FPH) regarding a traffic accident involving a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle on the crosswalk in front of the FPH and the driver was being detained.
Three officers including the lead investigator in this matter responded to the call where they were briefed by the first officers who were on the scene. The lead investigator was informed by the first responding officers immediately after the incident took place that the pedestrian was transported by the driver (the defendant) straight to the hospital as the victim was in critical condition.
Two officers who were present after the incident took place assisted the defendant in carrying the victim and placing her inside the defendant’s vehicle.
During the course of the investigation, investigators observed debris from the vehicle involved was mostly on the westbound bike lane and continued onto the bus stop. The investigator also discovered scrape marks from the bumper of the defendant’s vehicle on the road leading to the bike lane and where the victim landed after the impact. It appears that the vehicle slightly veered off from the main highway after is struck the victim who was walking through the crosswalk.
Investigators met with the defendant at the Dispatcher’s office where he was interviewed about what had occurred. The defendant stated to investigators that he and his female cousin (witness 1) exited from a restaurant in the Fagatogo area and entered onto the westbound lane and continued to travel on the westbound lane.
When reaching the turn-in to the police station or at the crosswalk, he was stunned to see someone running across the crosswalk from the south side, heading north to the post office building. The defendant stated that he could not react quickly enough to avoid a collision, although, he attempted to veer left but it was too late and the vehicle continued on its path, striking the victim while still in the crosswalk.
Investigators interviewed witness #2, the driver of another vehicle approaching the aforementioned crosswalk from the opposite (eastbound) direction of the subject’s vehicle. According to the witness’s statement, his vehicle and another vehicle in front of him had slowed down from the front of the Museum when he saw the victim from a distance crossing onto the crosswalk heading towards the Post Office building.
He stated that he saw in the opposite direction the suspect’s vehicle approaching the crosswalk traveling at a high rate of speed and seeming to not be slowing down, given the presence of a crossing pedestrian in sight. Witness #2 stated that the pedestrian, apparently seeing the suspect’s vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed, began to run mid-way through the crosswalk.
Witness #2 further stated that the suspect’s vehicle continued on and struck the victim towards the right hand side of the highway, tossing the victim about 25 feet forward from the point of impact to her point of rest.
Other witnesses collaborated the statement by witness #2 regarding Toa’s vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed.
The investigation revealed that the victim was struck by the right front section of the defendant’s vehicle and the victim had almost completed crossing the crosswalk.
The collision caused a semicircular dent to the right front bumper, broken right headlight cover and a dent on the right front hood of the vehicle.
The victim suffered severe injuries causing internal bleeding in the lungs. It was also revealed from the doctor that the victim sustained injuries on the right frontal head area, causing a minor or small subdural hematoma.
Furthermore, the victim also sustained abrasions and scratches on both hands, sustained injuries on the left big toe, scratches on the right thigh and a laceration on the right side forehead. The victim was unresponsive and was later taken to be monitored and admitted at the intensive care unit (ICU) and placed on a ventilator machine. Three days after the incident, June 7th, the victim remained unresponsive in the ICU.