Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Crash blamed
on bad heart

A Palolo man who lost consciousness and plowed into a group of Waikiki pedestrians, killing one and injuring several others, apparently suffered from a heart condition that he didn't know about, his attorney said.

Joseph Puuohau Jr., 62, had no history of heart problems before the May 26 incident, attorney Reginald Minn said yesterday. Puuohau tested negative for alcohol and drugs at the Queen's Medical Center emergency room where he was taken after the crash.

When he was admitted to the emergency room, doctors said Puuohau's heart was racing at 225 beats a minute, an indication that that he wasn't getting enough oxygen to the brain, and blacked out, Minn said.

"He obviously feels very badly about what happened," Minn said.

No charges have been filed, but police had opened a negligent homicide investigation. Minn said he hopes to meet with police soon to discuss the matter.

He expects Puuohau to be charged with driving without a license. But "we're hoping they won't charge him with negligent homicide -- it was a pure accident," Minn said.

Puuohau appeared in Hono-lulu District Court yesterday and pleaded no contest to an unrelated charge of driving without a license that occurred a few months earlier.

He apparently was driving his son's car in Kaimuki when he was broadsided by another car. Officers responding to the collision cited him for driving without a license. Puuohau had lost his license in 1998 after he was convicted of driving under the influence in an October 1997 incident.

He obtained a driver's permit afterward but had trouble getting a driver's license because of the long lines at the licensing bureaus, Minn said.

Killed in the May 26 crash was Hikari Ishiyama, 24, who had been married just days earlier and was honeymooning in Waikiki. Her husband, Hiroyuki Ishiyama, 30, received head injuries that required stitches. Five other pedestrians suffered injuries ranging from broken bones to one visitor losing toes after he was hit by a brochure stand.

Puuohau was driving down Kalakaua about 4:15 p.m. in a pickup truck rented by his son when he shot across four lanes of traffic, clipped a car from behind, climbed onto the curb and plowed into the pedestrians, some tourist brochure stands and a fire hydrant. He also sideswiped a police car and trash containers before stopping just before the Waikiki Police Station.



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