Kapolei player who died
hoped to follow Owens

Classmates say they admired him
as more than just an athlete

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned for young and old alike.

For the moment, however, any wisdom gained is lost in the cloud of heartbreak for family and friends of Ikaika Tan.

Tan, a senior at Kapolei High School, apparently lost control of his vehicle Wednesday and suffered fatal injuries. The football world lost a promising talent. Teammates lost a friend. A family lost a son, a brother and a father. Tan left behind a 1-month-old daughter, Riley.

The 5-foot-8, 165-pound wide receiver/defensive back/returner had already qualified to attend the University of Hawaii. One of the fastest returners in the state, he was planning to walk on at UH. In fact, the morning of his death, the three-sport standout had gone through a workout.

"He really liked Chad Owens," Kapolei football coach Darren Hernandez said. "He was hoping to be just like him."

Tan leaves behind a trail of disbelieving fans, people who admired his character even more than his talent.

"I've known this kid since he was in eighth grade. He's a strong, strong kid, physically and mentally," Hernandez said. "When I first heard about the accident, I thought, if anybody can survive this, it's Ikaika."

Hernandez, the only football head coach Kapolei has had since opening five years ago, was a fan of Tan.

"He was so mature beyond his years. Nicole (Tan's girlfriend) was eight months pregnant, and he's holding hands with her on campus, helping her," Hernandez said. "When a kid passes, it's easy to exaggerate, but everything about him is true."

Police say speed was a factor in the one-car accident. Tan's blue Honda was unrecognizable to at least one of his schoolmates. Kapolei softball player Austi Paris was on her way to a game at the school field.

"I passed the accident. I saw the car, but it didn't look like his. I didn't realize 'til later it was his car," Paris said.

Throughout the afternoon, Hurricane softball players got updates on Tan's condition as he was transported from one hospital to another.

"It was so hard to keep them motivated. I had girls at home plate crying," softball coach Tony Saffery said. "It was tough. It was really tough for all of us."

Hernandez had delivered video of Tan and other Hurricane players to UH two weeks ago. On yesterday's trip into town, however, he was quickly en route to Queen's Medical Center. He couldn't get there in time.

"I was stuck in traffic on Vineyard (Boulevard) when I got a call to hear he didn't make it. It's really a dark day. It's the first tragedy of this magnitude we've had," he said. "I feel for the family."

Campbell athletic director Sam Delos Reyes knows of sudden loss well. He lost a son to an auto accident in 2001.

"I feel for Ikaika's family. I can only express my deepest sympathy," he said. "I don't know for what reason it happens, but it does happen. All we can do is tell our youngsters about speed and cars."

Delos Reyes, a longtime coach and official, is in position to make a difference.

"It takes the innocent. My wife and I, when we heard about Ikaika, tears came to my eyes because it brings back memories," he said.

Tan's death marked the second traffic fatality in as many weeks of a Hawaii student-athlete. Last week, Kealakahe swimmer and cross-country runner Sarah Rosenberg died when a car crossed into her lane as she drove in Waikoloa. She suffered a severe head injury and later died at a Kona hospital.

Information on memorial services for Ikaika Tan was not yet available last night.

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