Michael "Mikey" Nakada smiled more when he was around his 5-year-old daughter, Joely, friends said.
He had expected to see her in less than 24 hours when he was killed in a crash on the Pali Highway onramp on Thursday.
Moments before, Nakada, 31, had been celebrating a friend’s birthday with a dinner and a game of darts. Because he had to work at 4 a.m. the next day, he left before his friends and was heading to his home in Alewa Heights. Nakada lost control of his speeding truck on the wet roadway and crashed at 11:57 p.m. into a retaining wall.
"He was just the most loyal person," said lifelong friend Brett Lau. "Two words to describe him is just ‘loyal’ and ‘true.’"
He recalled how Nakada was the one to call up old friends and hang out with a close group of friends every week.
"He was our rock on the rock," Lau said.
Nakada also continued a tradition started by his father that brought several families together in Manoa Hillside Estates.
About a dozen families gather every Saturday night at the house of his mother, Gail, to watch sports and eat.
Nakada took over at the outdoor grill for the evening parties after his father died several years ago.
He memorized what food each person liked and how they liked it and would ask them what time they were coming so their food would be hot when they arrived, said Val Schmidt, a neighbor and regular at the dinner parties.
"He would time that for every single person that came," she said.
She recalled how Nakada, a high school swimming champion who graduated from ‘Iolani School in 1998, often cheered loudly at the TV as if the participants could hear him.
Besides the regular dinners, Nakada, who shared custody of his daughter with an ex-girlfriend, spent the weekends with his daughter, frequently going to Dave & Buster’s, where she loved to play the claw game to pick up stuffed animals. Schmidt said the girl hasn’t fully understood what happened.
"When next Friday comes, I don’t know how it’s going to be," Schmidt said. "He would smile more when she was there. He was proud of her and he enjoyed being with her."
Nakada, who worked in distribution for CVS, was also on the verge of starting a business, Lau said.
He and a business partner recently found a programmer for their biometric security venture.
Nakada wanted the business so he could have a normal work schedule and spend more time with his daughter, Lau said.
"She was the apple of his eye," he said. "He just loved her so much."
Police investigators said speed and the wet roadway appear to be factors in the crash.
After Nakada lost control of his red 2003 Toyota Tacoma pickup, mauka of the Waianae-bound lanes of H-1 Freeway, the truck launched off an embankment and flew into the rock wall.
Nakada, who was wearing a seat belt, was taken to the Queen’s Medical Center, where he died.
Schmidt, the Manoa neighbor, said family and friends found comfort knowing that residents in the area tried to help and brought a fire extinguisher when his truck caught fire.
Besides his mother and daughter, Nakada is survived by his younger sister Emily.
Friends have started a fund for Nakada’s daughter. Call Schmidt at 952-1160 or email her at valerie.x. email@example.com for more information.