Special Report: Local man gets a second chance after attempted s - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Special Report: Local man gets a second chance after attempted suicide

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

When you first see William Kealoha face to face, it can be shocking. Especially when you know how Willy Boy used to look, before he turned a shotgun on himself.

"I cannot chew on this side at all. This whole side of my face has nothing. It's pure wipe out. No more. It's all hollow," he said.

When he was younger Willy lived in Waianae and worked on the docks at Leeward Marine. In September 2001 he lost his footing and fell.

"So he bounced back and forth between the dry dock and the barge before he hit the hard metal floor," attorney Jay Friedheim said.

Friedheim met Willy after the accident. He has worked on Willy's worker's compensation case for twelve years.

"This guy was worked over in a way that is unconscionable," he said.

Willy suffered multiple injuries from the accident. Friedheim said after ten days in the hospital, Willy's employer brought him back to work, gave him a raise, and then laid him off. Willy found another job.

"Over the next couple of months his knees were so bad he had to see a doctor. And the new company said, 'Wait a minute! He fell at the old company,'" Friedheim said.

Willy was unemployed with no medical care. He and his wife became homeless. Child Protective Services removed their children.

"My wife had it up to here. She was really sick of all of it," Wily said.

On February 8, 2003, a despondent Willy attempted suicide. The gun blast destroyed the left side of his face. The surgeon tried to fill the hole. Willy says the pain is physical and emotional.

"That testimony that I share is that when you shoot yourself, that's how you're going to look forever, and that's not funny," he said.

The worker's comp claim blames the suicide attempt on the shipyard injury.

"His jaw is broken into two parts. So anything, even as strong as a peanut butter sandwich, hurts him to eat," Friedheim said.

Over the years there have been negotiations, denials, appeals and delays. Then last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled and sided with Willy.

"Meaning, was the suicide or suicide attempt a directly related chain of causation to the original workers comp accident?" Friedheim said.

Even though the case is still held up, Friedheim sees a glimmer of hope. He believes Willy is entitled to medical help, compensation, and potentially reconstruction of his face.

"I am asking the higher court to order the lower court to decide," he said.

Willy now lives with his pastor and the consequences of his action.

"He has a hard time tasting, smelling, hard time breathing. When he sleeps you can hear him skip breaths and almost gag to breathe," said Thomas Couch, pastor of House of Angels Ministry.

Friedheim said the outcome of Willy's case could affect the cases of American contractors injured in war zones, who attempt suicide, then file a compensation claim.

"And they've lost legs or body parts. And these are not people that went there as soldiers. There's no VA benefits. They wish they had VA benefits," he said.

Sunday mornings, Willy worships at a church that meets at the Waianae Boat Harbor. He said he's born again. In this setting, it seems his deformity disappears. He helps the homeless and shares his story.

"I cannot wait to go to heaven and see my mansion," he tells the congregation.

Willy said God saved him from death twice. Even if his worker's compensation claim fails, he is at peace.

"When I look at myself in the mirror, I go, 'You know, I messed up big time. But Jesus Christ gave me another chance to live,'" he said.

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