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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 25, 2002

Hawai'i Kai skater lives on through memorial

A roadside memorial for skater Rayne Rasmussen stands on Poipu Drive in Hawai'i Kai. The man died in an accident June 25.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Shayna Coleon
Advertiser Staff writer

HAWAI'I KAI — Lei, candles, a Snickers bar and surfing wax are some of the gifts left at the foot of a small wooden cross that marks the spot where Rayne Rasmussen lost his life in a skateboard accident.

It's been a month since the 18-year-old died, but the impromptu memorial keeps growing, sustained by friends and by people who never knew him, but have heard the story. And as the memorial grows and the story is repeated, the words of warning from the skateboarder's friends and family grow more insistent: always wear a helmet.

Rasmussen suffered severe head injuries when he fell off the skateboard he was riding down a steep part of Poipu Drive in the Portlock neighborhood, a popular spot for skateboarders near Koko Head Elementary School. He was taken to The Queen's Medical Center after the accident on June 24 and died the next day.

Rayne Rasmussen died of severe head injuries from a skateboard accident.
"As a parent, I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, I should have told him to wear a helmet,'" Rasmussen's father, Rusty Rasmussen, said yesterday. "It just didn't dawn on me.

"Parents need to have an understanding and kids need an understanding that when you are on a skateboard, skates, scooter — whatever — without a helmet, and you hit your head the wrong way, you can die," he said.

Rasmussen said his son, who was also an avid surfer with a passion for writing poetry, often rode his skateboard from their house on Awini Place to The Chef's Table, where he worked as a waiter.

"He never broke a bone, never got hurt because he was always a real careful young man," said Rasmussen, a manager for Castle & Cooke Mortgage. "We never worried about him, but I guess you have no idea. The worst you think is you'll break a wrist or maybe get scratched up.

"If anyone learns anything from this, it's that it may not be cool to wear a helmet, but it's not cool to die."

Nationally, skateboard injuries result in 50,000 emergency room visits per year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends that communities develop skateparks to get skateboarders off the streets for safety reasons.

A memorial for Rayne Rasmussen on Poipu Drive is laden with lei. The Kaiser High graduate died June 25.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

There has been at least one other skateboard-related death on O'ahu this year. A 20-year-old Kaimuki man died in February after he fell while riding his skateboard down a slope on the Kapi'olani Community College campus.

A multimillion-dollar program has been launched in Honolulu to provide safe places for skateboarders so they won't have to use the streets. So far there are six skateparks on O'ahu, including one in Hawai'i Kai, that have either opened or are nearing completion.

Dane Keama, Rasmussen's friend for more than 12 years, said he and Rasmussen would skateboard down many of the steep streets in Hawai'i Kai with a group of friends.

"We were always bombing hills without helmets," said Keama, 18, who has not been on his skateboard since the accident. "But, now, this is way too close to me. You gotta realize it's just not safe without a helmet."

Another friend, Kaimi Marciel, 19, said Rasmussen's death affected his view on life.

"Since it happened, I broke my skateboard in half, I can't even think about doing that," said Marciel, who also lives in Hawai'i Kai and was there the night Rasmussen fell. "It changed my attitude toward life because you never think how fragile your life is."

Both said they did not know when they would get on a skateboard again. But if they did, they said they would wear helmets.

Both Marciel and Keama said they visit the makeshift memorial every day with a group of friends, so they can "feel close to him."

Rasmussen's friends want the memorial, which is on a curbside by the park, to stay in place to remind skateboarders of the potential danger.

"We want skateboarders to know, watch out because you never know what can happen," said Phillip Hunt, 17. "There are a lot of young kids coming up who don't even look at it (the accident), and bomb down hills in Hawai'i Kai."

Marciel added, "Yeah, but they gotta think because they can't keep thinking they're invincible."

Reach Shayna Coleon at scoleon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8004.