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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 3, 2003

Paramedic dies a day after surviving ambulance crash

By James Gonser
Advertiser Staff Writer

A paramedic involved in an ambulance crash in Kalihi last week died Saturday night, possibly from injuries related to the accident.

Frank Tahere was alert after the Friday accident, but died Saturday.
Frank Tahere, 60, was in the back of an American Medical Response ambulance with a patient at about 10 a.m. Friday when the vehicle went off the road, hit a utility pole on the 600 block of North School Street and came to rest on the steps of the Samoan Congregational Christian Church.

Police say the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel, but the accident is still under investigation.

Doctors suspect Tahere suffered a neck fracture and brain hemorrhage. He was taken to The Queen's Medical Center, was alert and talking with family members after the accident, but died at about 7 p.m. Saturday, according to the city medical examiner's office. An autopsy will be performed today to determine the cause of death.

"He was a very humble man, a very loving person," his widow, Arlene, said yesterday. "Everyone who knows him would say that. Very forgiving. No matter what anyone did to him, he would always forgive them.

"He was a home boy. He only did his church and work. (His death) hasn't hit yet. I just can't believe he isn't here anymore."

Tahere and his family lived on Naupaka Street in La'ie. He was an indigenous Maori who moved to Hawai'i from New Zealand (called Autearoa by the Maori) 30 years ago. A Mormon, he moved here to attend college and began working as a paramedic 27 years ago.

Frank Tahere died Saturday from injuries suffered in an ambulance accident on North School Street on Friday.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

"That was the most important thing, was his job," Arlene said. "He loved working on the ambulance and saving people's lives."

Neither the patient who was being transported from Pohai Nani retirement community to Straub Clinic nor the driver was injured in the crash.

Speedy Bailey, spokesman for American Medical Response, said family members and co-workers were at the hospital all day Saturday to be with Tahere.

"Frank was ready for discharge yesterday morning — he was cleared for discharge. It was very unexpected," Bailey said. "A totally 180-degree turn of events."

Bailey would not say whether the driver had fallen asleep, because the matter is under investigation, but did say the driver is still working for the company.

"We are working very closely with him in terms of counseling, and we're concerned about his well-being," Bailey said.

American Medical Response has about 40 vehicles statewide, and about 200 medics. The company contracts with the city to provide backup 911 service.

"For our company, (accidents) are very rare," Bailey said. "The last one was two years ago, with a moving ambulance. It is a very unusual occurrence for us."

Bailey said Tahere was an excellent paramedic who worked on O'ahu and Lana'i, and a caring, compassionate caregiver.

"We are very deeply saddened," he said. "Our thoughts are with the family."

Yesterday, 20-year-old Kawika Tahere said of his father: "He was a humble man of righteousness and integrity, and anyone that knew him loved him.

"He'll be very missed."

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.