appreciates seat belt,
rescuers in crash

Maile Shimabukuro was pinned
after her car flipped on Sunday

By Pat Omandam

Seat belts do save lives.

Just ask state Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, of Waianae.

The freshman legislator was driving toward Honolulu from the Waianae Coast early Sunday afternoon when her 1988 Isuzu Imark sedan suddenly swerved, hit the median, flipped over and landed in the Waianae-bound lanes.

Shimabukuro, 32, an attorney, suffered a bruised hip, a bump on her head, scratches and gashes on her left arm. But she realizes her injuries could have been much worse if she had not been wearing her seat belt.

Her car was totaled.

"I'm so grateful for that seat belt law," she said yesterday. "Now, wearing a seat belt is like a reflex. I can remember when they (the Legislature) first instituted that law, it was like, 'Oh, boy, what a pain, you gotta wear your seat belt.'

"But now I do it without thinking, and thank goodness. If it were not for the seat belt, I think I probably would have broken my neck or been dead right now," she said.

Shimabukuro (D, Waianae-Makua), vice chairwoman of the House Human Services and Housing Committee, took yesterday off, under doctor's advice, and is expected to resume her legislative duties today.

The accident occurred at a barren stretch of Farrington Highway between Honokai Hale and Kapolei, along the 30-mile trip Shimabukuro makes almost daily from her Waianae home.

She said there was a mechanical malfunction with her car, and she could not regain control. She had noticed a loose steering problem earlier but never had it checked.

"I was going along normally and everything was fine," she said. "Then, it just started to swerve and I couldn't regain control. It all happened in a blink of an eye. The next thing I knew, I was going into the median, and then I was upside down."

Shimabukuro is especially thankful for the people who came to her aid. She said the accident left her hair pinned between the ground and the car. With gasoline leaking from the car, people risked their lives to help her out, she said.

Some of those she wanted to acknowledge publicly are Scott Foulk, who retrieved her surfboard and other items from the car during the commotion following the accident.

She wanted to thank Mark Marziale, who witnessed the accident. And familiar faces like Mamo Kim and fireman Ernest Kaneshiro offered emotional support at the scene and at St. Francis-West Medical Center.

"I want to express my heartfelt thanks," she said. "Within seconds, I was just surrounded by all these people, these bystanders that came and really helped me."

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