Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

No drug link in Waikiki fatal crash, attorney says

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

Medical tests show that the driver of a pickup truck that veered off Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki on May 26 and plowed into a group of pedestrians, killing one and injuring six others, was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, his lawyer said yesterday.

Honolulu attorney Reginald Minn said emergency room records from The Queen's Medical Center show Joseph Puuohau had a heart rate of 225 when he was examined there.

Minn said emergency room doctors and his own doctor have told him the excessive heart rate could have caused Puuohau, 62, to pass out moments before the Ford F150 he was driving rolled onto the sidewalk and struck the people, brochure stands, a fire hydrant, trash cans and a police officer's parked SUV.

Minn said witnesses reported seeing Puuohau slumped over the wheel of the truck as it headed for the sidewalk.

In the days following the incident, a relative said Puuohau had high-blood-pressure problems. But Minn said yesterday that Puuohau did not have "any history of blackouts."

"He feels just terrible about what happened," Minn said. "We hope to meet with the police soon to talk to them about what the medical records show."

Minn said he believes that the records will not support a charge of felony negligent homicide, since that count involves the use of alcohol or drugs as being a contributing factor in a traffic fatality. "If he knew he was susceptible to blackouts, then perhaps an argument could be made. But without any prior history, I'd like to feel that it was a pure accident," Minn said.

Jim Fulton, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said Puuohau's medical records had not been turned over to prosecutors yet and police investigators have not presented the case to prosecutors to see what, if any, charges might be considered.

Minn represented Puuohau at a District Court hearing yesterday at which Puuohau pleaded no contest to driving without a license during an April 25 traffic collision. In that case, Puuohau was given a ticket after the truck he was driving was broadsided by another motorist.

Reach David Waite at 525-7412 or dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com.