SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Two royal family members from the South Pacific island nation of Tonga were killed when a teenager racing her car crashed into their sport utility vehicle, authorities said Thursday.

Prince Tu’ipelehake, 56, and Princess Kaimana, 46, died Wednesday night, according to Senter Uhilamoelangi, a distant relative and longtime friend of the prince.

Uhilamoelangi said the couple had arrived in the area earlier this week to discuss political reforms with members of the region’s Tongan community. Uhilamoelangi, a Tonga native and East Palo Alto resident, helped arrange the visit.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault confirmed that two members of Tonga’s royal family died in the crash. But he would not release their names until the Tongan government made an official announcement.

The driver of the red Ford Explorer carrying the two also was killed, the California Highway Patrol said.

Edith Delgado, 18, of Redwood City, allegedly was racing her car at speeds up to 100 mph on a highway in Menlo Park, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, when she tried to pass the SUV in which the royal couple was traveling, said highway patrol Officer Ricky Franklin.

Delgado’s car slammed into the driver’s side of the Explorer, causing it to swerve across several lanes before tumbling to a stop on its roof, Franklin said.

Tonga – a 170-island archipelago about halfway between Australia and Tahiti – has a population of about 108,000 and an economy dependent on pumpkin and vanilla exports, fishing, foreign aid and remittances from Tongans abroad.

Now the last monarchy in the Pacific, Tonga has been a Polynesian kingdom and a protectorate of Britain, from which it acquired independence in 1970. It is ruled by 88-year-old King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters praised Prince Tu’ipelehake’s efforts at reforming Tonga’s political system and said it was a “tragedy” that he died while traveling to the United States to seek out opinions of Tongans.

“He pursued this goal with sensitivity and perception, mixed with a strong determination to achieve progress,” Peters said in a statement. “This earned wide respect in New Zealand as well as in Tonga, where he was often called the Prince of the People.”

AP-ES-07-06-06 2317EDT



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