Teen arrested in crash that killed royal couple 

An 18-year-old Redwood City resident is scheduled to appear in court today for allegedly participating in a high-speed race that ended in a crash and the deaths of two members of the Tongan royal family.

Edith Delgado was arrested Wednesday night on three charges of vehicular manslaughter and an allegation of engaging in a speed contest on Highway 101 in Menlo Park.

Tongan Prince Tu’ipelehake and his wife, Princess Kaimana, were killed along with the driver, Vinisia Hefa of East Palo Alto, in the crash, which took place shortly after 9 p.m. between the Willow Avenue and Marsh Road exits, according to Eleni Aho, program coordinator with the Tongan Interfaith Council.

The San Mateo County Coroner’s Office would not formally confirm the identities Thursday, with Coroner Robert Foucrault saying he would wait until the Tongan government had gone through proper protocols of notification.

Delgado, who was driving a white 1998 Ford Mustang, entered northbound Highway 101 at University Avenue and allegedly began racing at speeds of up to 100 mph against an unknown driver in a black Cadillac Escalade, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Ricky

Franklin.

Delgado allegedly attempted to change lanes and clipped the driver’s side of the 1998 Ford Explorer, driven by Hefa.

The Explorer’s front end snagged on the asphalt and was catapulted into the air. It flipped end over end, several times, landing on its roof, according to Menlo Park Fire Deputy Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

Although all three were wearing their seat belts, Hefa was thrown partway out of the driver’s side window, and the Explorer landed partially on top of her, according to Schapelhouman. It was obvious to paramedics on the scene that Heffa was dead, he added.

"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 dead.

"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," Schapelhouman said.

Delgado was stopped at the scene. She had recently obtained her driver’s license, according to sheriff’s reports, and turned 18 on April 22, 2006, according to San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

The CHP continued to search for the driver of the Escalade, which was described as a black vehicle with spinning rims, Franklin said.

Delgado, a former bank teller at Bank of America, remains in custody on $300,000 bail, according to Wagstaffe. The District Attorney’s Office will determine today whether they have enough evidence to press charges against Delgado. She is due in court at 1:30 p.m.

Delgado’s family declined to comment on her arrest Thursday.

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Beth Winegarner

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