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‘6 inches away from home’

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    Ikaika Apana hugs Betty Jo Kassebeer, who lives two houses away from her second cousin, near the driveway along Kalanianaole Highway where Kassebeer's son Samuel was killed in an accident Sunday.

Kaohi Keliiholokai saw two cars whizz by hers on the wrong side of Kalanianaole Highway, the second one striking a Hyundai Elantra, killing her 11-year-old cousin Samuel Kassebeer, whom she called "the little brother I never had."

Keliiholokai said she had her foot on the brake behind the Hyundai, which was about to turn left into the family driveway when it was hit from behind.

"I was in shock, screaming," she said, and her passenger had to put the car into park.

Her account confirms the police traffic investigators’ belief that the black Honda Accord that struck the Elantra was racing another car.

As the Hyundai began a left turn, Keliiholokai said, the Honda struck the left side of the trunk.

The boy’s body was found two driveways down.

The Hyundai’s driver and passenger, both relatives, were in stable condition yesterday. The 1:43 a.m. Sunday accident was just north of Bell Street, fronting 41-640 Kalanianaole Highway.

Betty Jo Kassebeer, 33, will forever be reminded of her son’s violent death, noting the accident scene is "six inches away from home."

Kaohi Keliiholokai:
"I was in shock,
screaming," said the
eyewitness to the crash

"No matter which way you go … you pass it," she said. "I cannot forget."

Though Samuel Kassebeer, a Kamiloiki Elementary School student, was just 11, he stood nearly 6 feet tall and weighed 320 pounds.

"He’s big but he’s still my baby," said his single mom. Helping her raise him were his grandmother Julie Kassebeer, 56, and uncle Robert Nawai Kassebeer, 29, whom he idolized.

"He had one big shell but he was still one baby," said his Uncle Nawai, tearing up. "He was a giant but he had one big heart.

"He always like hang with the big boys."

Perhaps it was Sammy’s size that made him comfortable around adults. Betty Jo Kassebeer said streams of people have come to pay respects. Her 11-year-old son had many more friends than she did.

While his uncle wanted Sammy, who played on the Big Boys League, to be an NFL star, the 11-year-old’s passion was music. He "had the beat at a young age," was always singing, and loved trying his hand at guitar, organ and drums, relatives said.

The night of the accident, Samuel Kassebeer was at a party, where he listened to his favorite island reggae band, Everyday People.

His family runs a catering business, and he was helping out that night, as he often did.

But when he didn’t come home, his aunt and cousin went in their car to look for him with Keliiholokai in the lead. They found him in the neighborhood at another party.

The Honda driver, Herbert K. Kaio-Campbell, 20, of Waimanalo, was arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide and driving under the influence, and was released pending investigation.

Keliiholokai said her passenger got out and yelled at the Honda driver, and recognized him as Kaio-Campbell, their high school classmate.

In May the Honolulu Fire Department credited Kaio-Campbell with saving a life. He received the department’s medal of valor for rescuing a teenage swimmer Oct. 2 in rough surf at Makapuu.

Star-Advertiser reporters Gordon Y.K. Pang and Gene Park contributed to this report.


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