LAIE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of people turned out Saturday to bid farewell to Kahuku High School football player Keoni Tafuna. The team co-captain was found dead in his home last month.
Police had ruled that there was no foul play in Tafuna's death, and said it was an apparent suicide. The news media normally does not cover suicides, with the rare exceptions including those involving the death of someone famous. While Tafuna was not famous, it involved the death of someone in an extended family who came to mourn him, and to try to prevent this kind of death from happening again.
Tafuna was 17 years old, and was number 42 on the Kahuku football team. His survivors include his parents, three brothers and a sister. His extended family included his teammates and classmates from Kahuku High School, and the Kahuku community.
"For a lot of these students, especially from Kahuku and friends, this may be the first time they're involved in the death of anyone, let alone somebody their own age. And I think they're here to show support for the family and for each other," said Aaron Shumway, President of the Laie Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
It seemed that they all came, one large family made up of hundreds. Many of them thanked this reporter for coming to the service. Their sheer numbers overwhelmed Keoni's relatives.
"You know I feel very honored and proud of my grandson," said Keoni's grandfather Sione Fotu, reacting to the size of the crowd. "It really eases the pain that I went through, and my family, the last week."
"While we believe that suicide is wrong, we don't know the circumstances that Dee Dee (Keoni's nickname) was going through in his life, so we certainly don't condemn him," Shumway said.
"We want, especially young people to know, that there are people to turn to, at church, at school, friends, family, that there is help available, especially for those who go to a church, religion is a great place to find hope," Shumway said.
"He's in a better place," Fotu said, "He's with our Heavenly Father."
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