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Anger Around Tragedy Transforms Into Aloha

November 15, 2019, 8:30 AM HST
* Updated November 15, 8:03 AM
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Cassandra Ellis.

A tragic collision that claimed the life of a young mother of four and left two teenage girls in the hospital in serious condition has inspired a community to rally around the victims.

Background

Just after 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10, a Jeep Wrangler traveling south on Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway crossed the center line and slammed head-on into a Honda SUV carrying a driver and three passengers.

The driver, 35-year-old Cassandra Lynn Ellis of Kona, died at the scene. Her 15-year-old daughter, Taylor Campogan, and Campogan’s friend, 15-year-old Kawena Haserot, were pulled from the burning vehicle by police, as was Ellis’s 10-year-old daughter.

Campogan and Haserot remain in serious, but stable, condition at The Queen’s Medical Center on O‘ahu, while the 10-year-old was treated at Kona Community Hospital the day of the crash and released.

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The consequences of the incident were enough to send shock waves through the close-knit community of Kailua-Kona, where Ellis made her home and where both injured girls attend Kealakehe High School as sophomores.

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But the public eruption of emotion surged when police reported they believed speed and drugs were potential factors in the crash, and that the driver of the Jeep, 25-year-old Nicholas Abarcar, had a history of DUI.

Abarcar was arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide, three counts of negligent injury, DUI and reckless driving. He has since been released pending further investigation and has yet to be charged.

Community despair and disillusion, however, have inspired fundraising efforts to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

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Friends in need

It was just another sunny Sunday afternoon in Kona for Kealakehe sophomore Audrey Poggensee until her phone rang a little after 4 p.m.

Taylor Campogan.

Waiting for her on the other end of the line was a message she could never have expected.

Two of her best friends, Taylor Campogan and Kawena Haserot, had been in a horrific car crash that left their lives in question.

“It was shocking. My heart stopped when I heard it,” Poggensee said. “I didn’t really know what to do.”

School was out the following Monday in honor of Veterans Day. Poggensee said upon returning to school Tuesday, the buzz in every single classroom involved the crash.

Students and teachers alike, knowing how close Poggensee was with the two injured girls, extended their sympathies and offered their help to the sophomore. She took their support and channeled into an initiative of her own — a GoFundMe campaign for Campogan.

As of Thursday evening, 196 donors had given a total of $13,368 to the fund. The goal is $25,000.

Another GoFundMe fundraiser was started separately by Mehana Resetnikov to help Haserot, with the same goal of $25,000. As of Thursday night, that campaign had raised $21,625.

A third GoFundMe page has been created to help pay for the funeral and other expenses for Ellis.

Kawena Haserot.

“I saw Kawena’s GoFundMe and I felt the need to do something for Taylor and her family,” Poggensee said. “It’s going amazingly. It’s awesome to see the community come together and help these two families.”

Haserot reportedly suffered fractures to her pelvis and femur in the wreck. Campogan’s injuries had not been specified as of Thursday evening.

However, Poggensee said Wednesday night that she’d spoken to both Campogan and Haserot since the collision Sunday.

“They told me they’re doing OK,” Poggensee said. “The public should know they’re going to recover. With time and support from the community, they’re going to be alright.”

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