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StarBulletin.com

Accident victim promoted safe riding


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POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Clayton Okuma usually rode alongside Eric Souza, his friend and father-in-law, who taught him to build and ride motorcycles and even started a motorcycle club for him.

Sunday afternoon along Kailua Road, Souza happened to be riding a bike he helped Okuma build.

“;At that moment he was 30 feet to the front of me,”; Okuma said. “;I seen the van pull out, and I went into the right lane. ... I heard their brakes lock up and (heard) two crashes.

“;By the time I ran to him, he was already gone,”; said Okuma, who is so shaken by the accident he does not think he will ever ride again. “;No way he could have stopped. He didn't have enough time to react.”;

Police arrested the driver of the rented van Monday on suspicion of third-degree negligent homicide and first-degree negligent injury. He was released pending investigation.

The driver, a Japanese national, crossed from the right to the left lane to make a U-turn into the median in the path of the motorcycles traveling in the left lane, police said.

Two motorcycles' brakes locked up and both bikes hit the van, police said. Three other motorcyclists, including Souza's brother Brian, Okuma and Tobias Perio, all members of Souza's club, Lua Kala (”;money pit”;), were not injured.

Police said Souza, a 46-year-old Pearl City man who lived in Pacific Palisades, died at Castle Medical Center. The other motorcyclist was taken in critical condition to the Queen's Medical Center. They were not wearing helmets, police said.

Family members identified the other motorcyclist as a co-worker at Zelinsky Co., a painting and finishing contractor where Souza worked as a mechanic.

His family describes him as an expert mechanic who built motorcycles from scratch, as well as an expert rider.

Agnes Souza wept for her son yesterday at the accident site marked with a white cross and dozens of flowers.

She described her son as “;a very loving person.”;

“;He would give you the shirt off his back,”; she said.

Souza's wife, Nella, was supposed to ride with her husband Sunday but decided not to.

“;She really loved him and he really loved her,”; Agnes Souza said.

Souza's eldest child, and Okuma's wife, Tiana, said her father was a safe rider who never had a prior accident and insisted club members ride safe and drug- and alcohol-free.

The family is angered by the actions of the van driver.

“;The bottom line is he took away my dad,”; Tiana said.

“;We'll never see him again. He was too young, and he had too much unfinished business.”;

She hopes her father's death will serve as a reminder that motorcyclists “;are not all speeders. They're not all bad people. Just be careful. You never know who you'll be taking away.”;