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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 16, 2002

Golf buddy horrified by bizarre accident

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

The driver of a golf cart whose passenger was impaled by a fence rail said yesterday he was horrified by the accident that put his best friend of two decades in critical condition at a local hospital.

Harry Noguchi, left, and Dexter Moon are shown in a photo taken two or three years ago at a golf tournament at the Hawaii Country Club in Kunia. Noguchi was injured in a golf tournament last week.
Dexter Moon, 58, was driving the golf cart with Harry Noguchi, 63, in the passenger seat as they returned to the clubhouse after finishing their round at a local amateur business tournament last Friday.

It was 6 p.m., and shadows were falling over the New Ewa Beach Golf Course as the golfing pals headed back toward the clubhouse, following the cart path on a backward route toward the first tee.

"We had had a pretty good game, maybe 8 under scratch for the team, a three-man scramble," Moon said.

Then, in a few horrible moments, everything changed.

There were five or six golf carts ahead of them on the path heading back from the eighth hole, and the carts ahead started swerving around an oncoming cart, Moon said.

At a point where the path swerves left around a huge kiawe tree, Moon decided to continue straight, to the right of the tree, next to the rusting 3-foot-tall cyclone fence that separates the course from the grounds of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

"All of a sudden I started hearing scraping, like I was scraping the side of the fence, and I stopped. And when I stopped and turned to Harry, Harry was bent over," Moon said.

"And I noticed this pole from the top of the fence, it was pretty long, one end was off the fence and coming into the front of the cart, and it hit him in the left side, and as soon as I saw that pole I stopped."

Moon was stunned.

"Everything went through my mind," he said. "He was bent over. I don't know if it was still in him or not and I tried to take him off the cart myself. Then another friend from our same group, our gang, helped me put Harry down on the ground."

Moon could see the pipe, about 1¥ inch in diameter, sitting on the seat on the driver's side. "It was long and at the end rusty and small, and the point penetrated Harry," he said.

Moon fell to his knees to hold his friend, pressing a golf towel against his wound.

"I told Harry, 'I'm so sorry,' and he said, 'It's just an accident.'"

Noguchi remains in the intensive care unit at The Queen's Medical Center after surgery to repair the 4-inch wound in his abdomen, which has cost him one kidney and threatens his life.

He was conscious enough after surgery to respond to verbal instructions, and seemed to recognize his visitors, but has since been under heavy sedation, his son-in-law Daniel Lui said.

Noguchi's friends, and those who simply knew him as one of the regulars in the tournament, are shaken.

"It was hard to go ahead with the program after the tournament," said Brian Suzuki, president of Hawaii Air Cargo, which co-sponsored the event. "It was very subdued. We had a moment of silence for Harry and then wound things up," distributing the clubs, the gift certificates, the little prizes for the little victories of the day.

Art Nitahara, another of Noguchi's golfing buddies, still can't believe it.

"I kind of lost the appetite to play golf, kind of laid back thinking about it," Nitahara said. "It seemed like it didn't happen. It was fun up to then. Our team was having a good time. You wouldn't ever think it would happen."

Moon, a Honolulu Star-Bulletin distributor, visits Noguchi, a carpenter who runs the family-owned Noguchi Builders of Waipahu, for several hours every day at the hospital. He hasn't played golf since the accident.

"If I could change places with him I would," he said. "I'm worried. If he doesn't make it, I will be hurting."

If Noguchi pulls through, "I'll be happy. He might scold me — but Harry is such a soft-hearted guy, he wouldn't do that. Harry's got the biggest heart."

Noguchi's big heart seems to be controlling the situation, even though he can't communicate.

Some friends mentioned the possibility of recovering damages from the golf course, Lui said, but "my attorney gave me the scenario: If we take action against the golf course, any defense attorney will sue the driver, Dexter.

"And we know that if Harry could say something, he would say we are not going to do that to his friend."

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8054.