Coroner identifies Tonga Prince and Princess
in fatal crash
By Tamara Barak and Erica Holt, Bay City News Service
July 7, 2006
MENLO PARK (BCN) - A visiting prince and princess from
the nation of Tonga were among the three victims killed in a crash
Wednesday on U.S. Highway 101 in Menlo Park, the San Mateo County
coroner's office confirmed last night.
The royal pair were identified by Deputy Coroner Candace Jaeger
as Prince Tuipelehake, 54, and Princess Kaimana Tuipelehake, 45.
Vinisia Hefa of East Palo Alto was identified as the driver of
a Ford Explorer that carried the royal pair, the California Highway
Patrol reported Wednesday. Hefa also died in the crash.
Hefa was a nanny and the Explorer belonged to her employers who
are currently in Italy, Jaeger said.
Also this evening, fire officials released new details about
the fatal wreck.
Deputy Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection
District confirmed that all three victims were wearing seat belts,
and that the collapse of the roof likely killed the backseat passengers,
while the driver was partially ejected and crushed by the rolling
When their vehicle was hit from behind, "the vehicle rolled
several times. At some point the front part of the car was caught
on the ground and catapulted the vehicle into the air, after which
it landed on its roof," Schapelhouman said.
Hefa was thrown halfway outside the driver's side window, and
the vehicle came to rest partially on top of her, Schapelhouman
Menlo Park firefighters were first on the scene it was obvious
to them that Hefa was dead, Schapelhouman said.
"At first, we thought the people in the backseat were salvageable,"
he said. But as rescue crews began the extrication process, cutting
away the vehicle's rear door and removing the pillar between the
front and back seats, it became clear the royal pair was also
"They were quickly evaluated and both were deceased from
significant head trauma from the rolling of the vehicle and having
it land on its roof after being catapulted into the air,"
Investigators believe a teenager who may have been racing another
car caused the crash.
The district attorney's office will make an announcement Friday,
but reports that Edith Delgado, 18, may be facing charges in connection
with the accident.
California Highway Patrol Officer Ricky Franklin reported yesterday
that Delgado "just got her license in February,'' but has
no prior arrests and a clean driving record.
Delgado was allegedly driving a 1998 white Ford Mustang at a
fast, reckless speed around 9 p.m. on northbound U.S. Highway
101 north of Willow Road. When she came up behind the red 1998
Ford Explorer and attempted to pass it on the right, she struck
the driver's side of the vehicle, causing Hefa to lose control,
The Explorer, moving toward the right shoulder, overturned an
unknown number of times before landing on its roof, Franklin said.
"Side airbags don't always work in a rollover and there
are no protective devices built into the roof of your car,"
Delgado stopped at the scene of the accident and was arrested.
She is under investigation for vehicular manslaughter and a possible
speed contest, Franklin reported.
According to Franklin, a black Cadillac Escalade that exited
at Marsh Road, may have either seen or been involved with the
The two right lanes of the highway were closed and a Sig-alert
was issued for about two hours, according to the CHP.
Officers continue to investigate the incident. Anyone with information
is asked to call Officer Pohrman or Officer Franklin of the CHP
in Redwood City at (650) 369-6261.
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