Everything changed

Jack Gerrettie never in his life thought he’d want to die.

Six feet tall, 155 pounds with an excellent physique and striking good looks, Jack loved his job at Skyline Eco Adventures in Poipu.

On March 12, 2015, Jack was headed to work on his 2008 Suzuki GSX-R 600 motorcycle on Kuhio Highway a little before 8 a.m. on a clear day. He was driving near the Wailua Golf Course when his life changed. A motorcycle accident left him blind, devastated and depressed.

“My life did a complete 180,” Jack said. “Everything changed.”

After seven months of investigation by the Kauai Police Department led by Detective Officer Isaiah Sarsona, Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar told Jack and his father on March 1 that he would re-interview the people who witnessed the accident to see if there was enough evidence to prosecute the case against 25-year-old Kawehi Hoopii, the driver of the Ford Ranger and the man police said caused the accident.

Almost a year after the accident, Jack wants answers and justice.

A day not forgotten

On the date of accident, Jack was headed south, contraflow was in effect and traffic was heavy when he attempted to pass a vehicle on the right, according to a police report.

Hoopii’s Ford pickup, with a green cab and a silver bed, swerved to the right toward Jack’s motorcycle, causing Jack to swerve as he tried to avoid the truck. Jack swerved to the right and crashed into the asphalt, toward a guardrail. He was ejected off the motorcycle and into the guardrail, the report said.

Witnesses called police. Others rushed to Jack’s aid.

The Ford pickup that had jerked to the right toward Jack drove off and did not stop, according to news reports.

When his coworkers didn’t hear from him, they called each other to see if Jack, a zipline tour guide, had checked in with them about coming in late. Skyline Eco Adventures Poipu Operations Manager George Wadley described Jack as “very athletic and very in shape,” and said he was good at his job.

“He was super reliable,” Wadley said. “You can always count on him.”

Wadley called Jack Gerrettie Sr., who said his son had left and should be on his way to work.

A quick scan on Facebook revealed there had been a motorcycle collision on Kuhio Highway. They got worried.

Rude awakening

What followed was five weeks and a day of intense agony for Jack, he said.

Jack’s father said his son was rushed to the Wilcox Memorial Hospital Emergency Room in critical condition after receiving first aid treatment at the scene by paramedics. He was then medevaced to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu. Jack Sr., who spent the entire time with his son, said he didn’t know if Jack was going to live or die.

On Jack’s 26th birthday, March 17, doctors told Jack Sr. his son was going to live.

They then told Jack what had happened to him. That he was recovering from a bad motorcycle accident. That he was blind. That he had severe trauma to the face and eyes. That he had broken his left arm. He would have his mouth wired shut for 10 weeks. He had to have extensive facial reconstruction surgery.

Everything was pitch black. Jack would never see again.

And he didn’t remember anything leading up to the accident. He didn’t remember the accident at all.

He doesn’t remember how fast he was going. He doesn’t remember how he was driving.

All he remembers was that he was on his way to work driving his motorcycle just like any other day.

The last thing he remembered was working out the Sunday before the accident. It was “legs and shoulders day” and Jack was ready to spend up to three hours in the gym. It was just across the street from his house.

Gym was a second home to Jack, he said. Before his accident, Jack was there five to six times a week.

“He was one of the most active people I know,” Jack Sr. said. “The doctors told him that’s probably what kept him alive. Now, he is one of the most inactive people I know.”

Just doing simple things requires his dad’s help, Jack said. His dad is with him 24/7. Jack spends most of his time indoors.

‘That’s when the monsters come’

He used to love playing baseball, Jack Sr. said. But after the accident, his social life took a turn for the worse. He can no longer be a zipline tour guide.

He fell into a deep depression.

In November, Jack became suicidal.

“Right before I went to the counselor, I was having really bad thoughts,” Jack said. “I told my dad ‘I need to go to counseling.’ I went to the doctors, and they told me, ‘I am surprised it took you this long.’ Suicidal thoughts. They definitely want me to go on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. Once you’re all by yourself, that’s when the monsters come.”

November was also when Jack and his father first met with Kollar to talk about pursuing the case against Hoopii.

KPD arrested Hoopii at his home 11 hours after the accident for negligent injury and accidents involving death or serious injury. He was released pending investigation.

Hoopii did not respond to requests for comment.

The case

Since the case was handed over by police to the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney on Sept. 11, 2015, the Gerretties have met with Kollar twice. Most of their contact with his office has been on the phone with Jennifer Arashiro, one of OPA’s victim witness advocates, Jack Sr. said.

“I’d like him to prosecute the guy,” Jack Sr. said.

When KPD’s Traffic Safety Section completes an investigation, the investigator will recommend charges if the investigation deems it is warranted, a KPD spokeswoman confirmed. The report is then forwarded to the OPA for review and determination of what charges, if any, will be filed.

In this case, KPD would not confirm what charges it recommended be filed against Hoopii, but said it had initially arrested him for negligent injury in the first degree.

The Gerretties said they feel there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the case could go to trial. Witnesses, they said, could sway a jury. Sarsona has told them he believes it was not Jack’s fault that the accident occurred, but that of the other driver, they said.

Witness statements in the report prepared by Sarsona said that as Jack attempted to pass him, “Hoopii conducted a maneuver which appeared to be sudden and intentional jerking his truck to the right once or twice” toward Jack’s motorcycle.

Unanswered questions

An 800-page police report, prepared by Sarsona, said the damage on Jack’s motorcycle is estimated to be less than $3,000.

Jack’s maneuver and action was to overtake, pass and avoid another vehicle — Hoopii’s. The report also said Jack was not distracted during the accident, but that he drove too fast and that he swerved to avoid an obstacle.

However, police could not conclusively confirm that Hoopii’s truck ever came into contact with Jack’s motorcycle, according to reports.

One witness — who told police she had assumed Hoopii’s truck hit Jack’s motorcycle — followed him as he drove off. An hour later, after she calmed down, she called police and gave them the driver’s license plate number.

Another witness who was behind Jack’s motorcycle said in the report that Hoopii’s Ford Ranger made contact with the motorcyclist, which knocked him down and into the guardrail.

Another witness in Sarsona’s report said Jack was going “very, very fast” and “zooming in and out of the cars.” She estimated that he was driving at about 85 mph and that she was going to call police to report him as a reckless driver.

Jack Sr. doesn’t believe it.

Although he wasn’t there, he said it doesn’t make sense: there was heavy traffic at the time, it was early in the morning, and other witnesses suggested Jack was going possibly maybe 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit.

“But 85 mph?” he asked in disbelief. “We want answers. (Kollar) told us it wasn’t a ‘slam dunk case.’ Put it in front of a jury. Let them decide.”

In their second meeting on March 1, Kollar told the Gerretties he’d re-interview the witnesses and call them back in a few weeks.

“I’d like my day in court,” Jack said. “I have a really hard time. I can’t even go outside to go run. I don’t want another person going through this. I live with pain every single day.”

•••

Michelle Iracheta, cops and courts reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or miracheta@thegardenisland.com.

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