Tonga royal couple memorial removed from highway, deamed hazardous
By Erica Holt, Bay City News Service
July 12, 2006
An expansive decorated roadside memorial near the site of a fatal
crash that killed a Tongan royal couple one week ago has been
removed for safety reasons, California Department of Transportation
spokesman Bob Haus said today.
Caltrans removed the colorful display of blankets, Tongan flags,
large crucifixes and sorrowful notes around 3 p.m. Tuesday.
The memorial, which was increasing in size as mourners continued
to add to it, was perilous for traffic and individuals stopping
to mourn at the crash site near northbound U.S. Highway 101 south
of the Marsh Road exit, according to officials.
It was "getting really large,'' Haus said.
The CHP reported that one night some 40 people were gathered
on the side of the highway.
The memorial has been moved to a Redwood City Tongan church.
"We delayed taking it down because we wanted to talk to
people in the Tongan community first,'' Haus said. "We meant
absolutely no disrespect to their grieving. In terms of everyone's
safety we could not allow it to stay there.''
"People were slowing down to look at it and stopping,''
Mourners would pull over, add to the memorial and then get back
onto freeway, creating a situation that was "totally dangerous,''
News of the deaths of Prince Tu'ipelehake, 54, Princess Kaimana
Tu'ipelehake, 45, and East Palo Alto resident Vinisia Hefa, 36,
brought sadness to the Bay Area's sizable Tongan community. The
prince and princess were visiting the region to promote democratic
reform in Tonga, according to Viliami Teu, a senior pastor at
the Tongan Christian Assembly of God in East Palo Alto.
Edith Delgado, an 18-year-old East Palo Alto woman, has pleaded
not guilty to charges that she caused the crash. Delgado was allegedly
driving the Ford Mustang that hit the Ford Explorer carrying the
royal couple and Hefa, causing the Explorer to roll several times
and land on its roof, according to the CHP.
Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication,
Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent
of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.