The brother of John Collins Harrington, the man whose body was found at Maha’ulepu last Saturday and identified by medical examiners Tuesday, said he prefers to remember the positive things about John’s life.
Patrick Harrington, of Harrington Paradise Properties based in Hanalei, said he “(doesn’t) want to think about blaming anyone or what went wrong,” Tuesday afternoon during an interview at his home in Anahola.
“He was so excited about life and he had so much less than most people,” he added, “Meeting someone new, even going to McDonald’s was exciting.”
John, or Collins as he was known by to family and close friends, had lived on Kaua’i since 1983, and was a client of the Association for Retarded Citizens of Kauai (ARC) for nearly that long.
He moved from Oregon to Kaua’i in 1983, where he lived with his mother. After she passed away in 1984, John and his brother moved in together. John worked at Rehabilitation Unlimited Kauai in Wailua making children’s grass hula skirts for a little extra money and “something he could be proud of,” until they closed down after Hurricane ‘Iniki. In about 1994, John moved into an ARC apartment building in Lihu’e with other people with developmental disabilities.
Since about September, John and his ARC caretaker would go on occasional outings. John liked to watch big machinery, construction sites and people at work, Patrick said. On Wednesday Nov. 20, he and his caretaker went to Po’ipu Beach Park where they had lunch and John went for a walk alone at about 3:30 p.m.
“He liked to walk, talk to people, and people would be surprised that he remembered them,” Harrington said.
John apparently got lost on his walk and didn’t return. Police later received calls that he was seen at CJM Stables and at the pool area of the Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort and Spa later that evening.
“John was known to enjoy lots of walks, walks by himself. We supported that because it’s something he can do on his own,” said Ellen Ching, ARC executive director.
Patrick said his brother liked to walk around Lihu’e and could go about 5-to-10 miles a day. ARC director Ellen Ching said that John had gotten separated from outings and groups in the past, and many times people would call councilman Daryl Kaneshiro, a longtime friend of the family, Kaneshiro said. But John would always come home safely thanks to the help of people in the community.
Apparently John stopped at CJM Stables on the road leading to Maha’ulepu Wednesday night, possibly remembering going to cattle roundups and fundraisers with his brother and Kaneshiro.
“I’d like to say I don’t foresee this happening again…but you can never say never,” Ching said. She could not comment on any specific matters related to Harrington’s caretaker, such as if any disciplinary measures would be taken.
Pat was in Honolulu when it was announced that John was missing. “In all the cases we work, this is the first time we had this many volunteers and used all kinds of resources that the KPD had to limit, like flight time,” said Kaua’i Police Department Investigative Services Bureau Lieutenant Dean Pigao.
He said about eight people make up a team in an average missing person case, but each day about 30-50 volunteers joined the KPD and the Honolulu Police Department’s canine search team from Nov. 21 until his body was found a week and a half later, Pigao said.
John’s brother, the ARC and friends of the family spent money for more helicopter search time at $650-700 per hour, and the 10-day search was possibly the KPD’s longest, Pigao said.
Daryl Kaneshiro, who knew Patrick since the early 1980s, helped search parties through the Maha’ulepu and Po’ipu area by helicopter Thursday and Friday, keeping an eye on the roadside, hoping that John might walk to somewhere familiar, Kaneshiro said. Kaneshiro and Harrington also used four-wheeler ATVs to cover more area while searching over the weekend.
“Maybe there were people who saw him, and they might have thought ‘How can anyone get lost in Po’ipu?’ because its such a well-known area. But if he’s unfamiliar with how he got out there, he’s lost,” Kaneshiro added.
“You always hope to find them alive, but just finding a body can give some closure,” Pigao said. “You can do good police work but sometimes good luck gets you good cases. Things just happen and you can solve cases that way, and other times you work your tail off and you don’t solve it.”
Harrington was found on some rocks in an embankment on the mauka-side fork in the road past the guard shack that leads into Maha’ulepu.
“The sad part about it is that we passed that road so many times, and maybe he was still alive,” Kaneshiro said.
“He was so funny and witty. He’d say something to you, and you wouldn’t realize how he zinged you until later. And this guy was supposed to be mentally retarded…” Patrick said.
“If there’s a heaven, he’s there, full speed ahead,” he continued.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 252).