Questions raised about presence of alcohol at teen's memorial - Tucson News Now

Questions raised about the presence of alcohol at teen's memorial

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A roadside memorial to crash victim Kawehi Adkins-Kupukaa A roadside memorial to crash victim Kawehi Adkins-Kupukaa
Larrisa Tuifao Larrisa Tuifao
Kiana Manu Kiana Manu
Abigail Nickell Abigail Nickell
Delores Cunha Delores Cunha

On the sidewalk at Kaimalie Street, a roadside memorial to crash victim Kawehi Adkins-Kupukaa has been growing as people have left hundreds of flowers, along with balloons, candles and cards. But the presence of beer has sparked discussion as to whether its appropriate to have alcohol present at the crash site.

Two open green bottles of beer have been at the memorial since early this morning. Some say its traditional to leave an open can or bottle at a grave site or memorial.

"No, it's not a problem to see alcohol bottles there," said family friend Larrisa Tuifao. "It's just local style. That's how it goes. That's how we do."

"Everyone deals with mourning in their own way," said Kiana Manu, another family friend. "We're just celebrating for Kawehi. She would have wanted it this way."

"I think it's just part of the culture," said Abigail Nickell, executive director of the Hawaii chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "People are used to doing that sort of thing."

But MADD said it doesn't believe that beer belongs at this memorial.

"It just seemed so insensitive to us, really hurtful to the victims and their families and their friends," said Nickell. "I just don't think its appropriate."

Earlier, there had been evidence that some mourners had been drinking at the memorial, with bottles littering the grassy hillside at the crash site. In the evening, while many high schoolers were gathered at the site, two young men showed up briefly, had a swig from a bottle of whiskey, and then spread some whiskey on the ground before leaving.

MADD is also concerned because many teens in Hawaii have said that they are drinking.

"We're seeing about 30 percent of teenagers admit that they have had a drink in the last 30 days," said Nickell. "And even higher than that, binge drinking, is 15 percent." MADD defines binge drinking as having five or more drinks at a time.

Friends of the girl's family said some teens will drink no matter what, but definitely should not drive after drinking. "Don't just get behind the wheel and be hard-headed and go gallivanting," said Tuifao.

While many are bothered that the beer bottles are at Adkins-Kupukaa's memorial, some say it also could serve as a reminder.

"We don't want to give the message that it's okay to drink," said Delores Cunha, who lives close to the crash site. "It's the fine line between tradition and yet reality, because we can see how alcohol can play a major part in someone's life or death."

And MADD said that while the crash is tragic, it may also make it easier for parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of drinking and driving.

"You can just say 'I saw this on the news,'" said Nickell. "'I'm concerned, I want you to know that I love you and I don't want you to drink.'"

Related headlines:

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Campbell High community grieves following fatal accident

Speed, alcohol likely involved in Ewa Beach crash that killed teenager

SLIDESHOW: Police Investigate Ewa Beach Crash

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