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Despite best efforts, bus rider succumbs

Kilauea resident dies despite passengers’ efforts

by Nathan Eagle and Ellen Edmands – THE GARDEN ISLAND

KAPA‘A — A Kilauea resident died after suffering an apparent heart attack on the Kaua‘i Bus, Tuesday morning in Kapa‘a, officials said yesterday.

Joseph Castelo, 64, was riding the Hanalei to Lihu‘e mainline around 7:15 a.m. when he started experiencing shallow breathing, witnesses said.

Passengers noticed the man was in distress after the bus picked up riders at the Kapa‘a Big Save stop.

“He kind of made a couple of hard-breathing sounds, his head started to roll around and his eyes started to lose focus,” said Kapa‘a resident Ken Watson, a passenger standing in the aisle next to Castelo’s seat on the crowded commute.

“He was still breathing but it sounded like shallow breaths,” he said. “I had the lady sitting next to him get up so I could have a better look.”

Watson, who has advanced first aid training from previous jobs and was a medical responder at a forging shop, noticed the man had stopped breathing, asked if there was a doctor onboard and called out to the driver to stop the bus.

Meanwhile, Kilauea resident Erin Dessert, who was sitting at the rear of the bus, heard the passengers alerting the driver that the man was sick. A lifeguard for nine years, she noticed Castelo was more than sick and moved forward to provide assistance.

“By the time I got up there, he didn’t appear to be breathing so I checked his pulse,” she said. “Not for a second did we think we weren’t going to save his life.”

When the bus pulled into the Long’s Drugs parking lot at the Safeway shopping plaza in Kapa‘a, Watson told the bus driver that they needed to take the man off the bus to perform CPR.

Watson, with the help of a few others, pulled Castelo off the bus and into a shaded area some 40 feet away.

He began performing compressions to the man’s chest and administering breaths. Dessert offered to help and she took over the breathing for Watson.

Passenger Bill Winters, of Princeville, had already called 911 from a cell phone and Watson estimated it was about two minutes of administering CPR before the paramedics arrived from the nearby fire station in front of Foodland.

When they arrived, Watson asked the paramedics if they wanted to take over but they said he was doing fine and to continue while they set up and applied a portable resuscitator.

Emergency medical technicians then took over, put him on a gurney and loaded him on the ambulance while continuing CPR, witnesses said.

He died at the scene. An autopsy will be performed to determine cause of death, county spokeswoman Mary Daubert said.

“I certainly send my thoughts and prayers out to his family,” Dessert said.

She and Watson noted how their first aid training kicked in automatically and they did not hesitate to try to save him.

“Everyone was real cooperative,” Watson said.

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