After a lunchtime meeting of the Red Cross of Constantine in Honolulu, brethren were in a restaurant parking lot. Witnesses said GM Wegener seemed unfamiliar with how to drive the Lexus SUV, which had been modified for a handicapped driver. According to an article in the KITV-4 website, the car belonged to Brother Nahalea:
Friends of the men said the vehicle had been modified to enable its owner, Abraham “Sonny” Nahale’a, whose right leg was disabled by a stroke, to drive with his left foot.
Witnesses said Nahalea was unable to get into his car in the congested parking lot, so another of the Masons, Charles Wegener, 65, tried to move the SUV out of the parking space for him. The vehicle accelerated suddenly, striking the three friends. Nahalea was injured and was listed in stable condition at Straub Clinic.
The modification was done at Maxi Mobility Center, the only auto shop in Honolulu specializing in modifying vehicles for the disabled. Mechanic Joe Aduna said someone trying to drive with the left-foot pedal for the first time could definitely have problems. “It does make perfect sense that somebody accidentally done this, sure," Aduna said.
Aduna said trying to drive the car with the left foot is more difficult than people expect. “It can be very confusing,” he said. “Step on what you think is the brake and you're actually stepping on the accelerator and you're going to accelerate right on through. Go into panic mode and all your going to do is step on that accelerator a little harder instead of actually hitting the brake.”
Witnesses said they believe that’s exactly what Wegener did. Police placed him in handcuffs, drove him to the police station in a police cruiser, gave him a blood test and booked him for investigation of negligent homicide in the second degree, a felony punishable with a maximum five years in prison.
Victim Dexter Lum’s cousin, Daniel Nishihama, said the arrest of Wegener made him uncomfortable. “They handcuffed the guy like he was a criminal, that was pretty tough to see,” he said.
"Two very good men passed away they were a credit to themselves, their family and this organization and institution in particular. The best way those men can be honored is to do good for your fellow man. Treat your fellow man as he would have him do and every day endeavor to become a better individual, said Lodge Master Andy Geiser.
Members are reaching out to comfort the others who were at Paradise Park, including Nahalea who is hospitalized at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua, and Charles Wegener who was behind the wheel..
Police said speed and alcohol were not factors in the incident. From a story on Saturday, Victim's sister has kind words for driver in fatal SUV accident:
Suzette Oide, sister of one victim, 68-year-old Dexter Lum, said she met with Wegener yesterday to talk about the fatal accident.
"Hopefully, it helps him to get through this because he's really hurting a lot," said Oide. "We don't feel any animosity or blame, and we want him to get better and everyone else involved."
She said she misses her brother but worries for Wegener, adding, "He's hurting so badly. I want to help him in any way."