VASH offers assistance as two vacationing families lose loved ones - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

VASH offers assistance as two vacationing families lose loved ones

Jessica Lani Rich Jessica Lani Rich
Jerome Andrade Jerome Andrade

By Minna Sugimoto bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A family from Japan and another from Michigan, each coping with the sudden death of a loved one while on vacation, are receiving assistance from a Hawaii organization that helps tourists who become victims of crime or other tragedies.

When Yuko Okayama, 74, of Japan was killed in a single car crash in Kaaawa on New Year's Day, the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii was there.

"It's our job to take care of the visitors and whenever an unfortunate incident happens, especially on January 1st or any other holiday, we want to respond as quickly as possible," Jessica Lani Rich, VASH president and executive director, said.

When a man from Michigan died while snorkeling in Kaaawa that same day, VASH helped his grieving family members make changes to their air travel and hotel plans.

"Both families, they're in a state of shock," Rich said. "I mean, you're going to Hawaii, paradise. You're having the time of your life and, in the case of the family from Michigan, the wife said he was having the best time."

As a member of VASH, Borthwick Mortuary also offers tourists assistance when tragedies strike. The company says it's especially difficult to lose a loved one while away from home.

"The trauma of having somebody drown or get shot or automobile accident is one thing, but you don't have family," Jerome Andrade, Borthwick senior funeral director, said. "We will work with them and assist them, tell them, you know, what it needs to be done."

VASH says it's able to carry out its mission through funding from the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Aloha United Way, and through donations from businesses and other members of the community.

"We are letting our visitors know that we care and, in addition to what they're going through, they're going to remember that," Rich said.

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