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Isle safety touted after tourist stabbing

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 2:01 a.m. HST, Jul 9, 2011

Hawaii tourism industry leaders acted to assure potential visitors that Hawaii is a safe place, after an attempted robbery early Friday in Palolo Valley in which a Japanese visitor was stabbed.

The victim, 23, was reported in good condition at the Queen's Medical Center after being stabbed once in the shoulder at about 12:30 a.m. Friday near Rainbow Market on Palolo Avenue.

Police said the man was in one of three rental vehicles that got lost in Palolo while trying to find Tantalus Heights. After realizing they had gone the wrong way, the visitors pulled over to regroup and decided to make a U-turn, police said.

As the third car, a convertible, was about to make the turn, two men approached it and demanded money. When the victim, a passenger, was awakened and raised his arm to defend himself from a knife being placed to his throat, he was stabbed in the right shoulder, police said.

All three cars then made their way back to Waikiki, where they flagged down an officer at a Kalakaua Avenue gasoline station, police said.

Leaders of three visitor organizations called the incident isolated and said they believe Honolulu and the state is safe for visitors.

Mike McCartney, president and chief executive of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, called Hawaii one of the safest destinations in the world. "The incident involving a visitor from Japan was unfortunate and an isolated incident," McCartney said in a statement. "We support the efforts by law enforcement and public safety officials to keep Hawaii safe."

Jessica Lani Rich, president and chief executive of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, said she was meeting with the stabbing victim Friday night to see whether her nonprofit organization can provide assistance.

"This is an isolated incident," Rich said. "For the most part, Hawaii is a very safe place, and this shouldn't deter visitors from coming here."

Mufi Hannemann, president of the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association, agreed.

"These types of 'crimes against visitors' certainly mar the great work that thousands of Hawaii residents practice every day in sharing the aloha spirit with our family, neighbors and tourists," Hannemann said in a statement. "We convey our apologies to our friend from Japan and pray for a speedy recovery."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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