By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A little more than three weeks after a violent traffic collision north of Hilo took the lives of both drivers, the family of one of those drivers is doing its best to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
Denise Sheppard Nakanishi, a local Realtor whose 61-year-old husband Miles was killed in the crash, is now out of the hospital, as are their grandchildren, 9-year-old Faith Makanalani Kraus and her 6-year-old brother, Connor Kalimahana Kraus.
“I think we’re still numb, if you want to know the best way to describe it,” Denise Nakanishi said Monday. “We were all very, very close to him. He’s such a nice, wonderful, amazing person and it’s just hard. I’m probably in denial, too. It seems like he’s just coming home anytime.
“… The grandchildren are both back in school. They’re supposed to take it easy, which is not good, especially for my grandson. … They’re doing pretty good, considering.”
Denise Nakanishi’s 80-year-old mother, Jewel, is still hospitalized.
“She has a broken wrist and a broken arm that they put a rod in on the other arm and severe lacerations on her legs. They tell me she’s probably going to have some complications,” Nakanishi said. “They tell me when your wrist gets broken in several places, which hers is, you get arthritis and a lot of scarring. She’s up walking some, but we have to help her. She’ll be in rehab awhile.
“My mom was in intensive care for a little while, but I never was. Mine was just contusions and lacerations and lots of bruising. When it happens, you can’t even breathe. The seat belt, it just grabs you so hard. I still have a laceration on my foot. My shoulder is still sore. A lot of bruising all over. That sort of impact is hard to explain. It’s so violent.”
The family was returning home Oct. 21 from a birthday party for another grandchild, 7-year-old Ma‘ili Yardley, at the Kohala Mountain Farm pumpkin patch, when the fatal collision occurred.
“We had the best day over there,” Nakanishi said.
Police said that shortly after 7 p.m., a northbound 1999 Chevrolet pickup truck driven by 65-year-old Frank Rosol of Hakalau apparently crossed the center line of Hawaii Belt Road (Highway 19) on Hanawi Bridge between Papaikou and Pepeekeo and collided head-on into the Nakanishis’ 2005 Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle.
Rosol, who was alone in the pickup, and Miles Nakanishi, a retired Hilo High School counselor and owner of Uncle Miles Kitchens, a Hilo airport food concession and catering business, were dead at the scene.
Nakanishi said that Rosol “definitely” crossed into the Nakanishis’ lane on the bridge and “was going very fast.”
“I was behind (the driver’s seat), so I couldn’t really see too much, but I heard him (Miles Nakanishi) say, ‘What is this guy doing?’” she said. “Then I heard him say, ‘Oh, s—-,’ and I felt him trying to correct his path. He was trying to get out of the way, but there was nowhere to go.
“When the police got there, one of them said, ‘It’s a minivan,’ and I said, ‘No, it was not.’ It was so huge, the car, but the whole front of it was just gone.”
Police do not know yet if alcohol or drugs were factors. Nakanishi said there were indications in the wreckage that Rosol had just come from the Target store in Hilo. She thinks perhaps he fell asleep at the wheel or suffered from a medical condition.
“The police said he never tried to correct his path; he never swerved. He never applied his brakes that they could tell,” she said. “I’m looking for a lesson, something to take away from this but I really don’t know what it is, except maybe people with medical conditions, they shouldn’t be driving, or if they’re impaired. I don’t know what the lesson is.”
Miles Nakanishi was well known, respected and beloved in the Hilo community, and there was an overflow crowd for his memorial on Nov. 4 at the Hilo Yacht Club.
“There were about a thousand people who came through there and maybe another 500 or so who gave up standing in line. It was very heartwarming,” Denise Nakanishi said.
“The outpouring of a lot of people showing their love and aloha for my dad has really helped the pain of it all, just accepting it,” added Robin Yardley, Miles Nakanishi’s daughter. “It was nice having everyone together and sharing stories about Dad and laughing at his silly ways and just reminiscing.”
Denise Nakanishi described her husband as “the nicest person I ever knew.”
“He was even nicer than people thought,” she said. “You live with somebody, you know. He was funny, always trying to pull pranks. But he was so nice.”
Friends have set up a website to help the family defray medical and funeral expenses at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/cNVMd?psid=c60bfb95fc1749aa8031aec7a760d923.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.