Keith Komatsubara, a Pearl City resident, died of blunt force injuries to his torso, the Honolulu Medical Examiner said Tuesday.
"I'm gonna miss him. I'm sure his family will too," said Dave Stephens, a retired firefighter himself.
Authorities say the collision happened at around 3:40 p.m., when the 64-year-old male driver of a minivan was reported to be driving erratically across the west-bound lanes of Farrington Highway. According to police, the man crashed into a concrete barrier, went over a grassy median and slammed into two cars that were traveling in the opposite direction.
Komatsubara was behind the wheel of one of the two vehicles. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
"It doesn't matter whether it's an active-duty firefighter or a retiree because once a firefighter, you're still a firefighter," said Hawaii Fire Fighters Association President Bobby Lee. "So our hearts and prayers go out to the Komatsubara family for this devastating lost."
The suspect in the crash was hospitalized in serious condition. The driver of the second vehicle, a woman in her forties, was hospitalized in fair condition. Police say the driver who caused the accident may have had a medical condition. Investigators have opened both negligent homicide and negligent injury cases.
The crash backed up afternoon traffic for hours as police closed lanes in both directions to investigate the incident.
Friends of Komatsubara say he loved sports, especially University of Hawaii sports, and in his later years loved playing golf.
"It's just the kind of loss that you just don't expect," Stephens said. "The way Keith was going, I thought he'd live to be 100."
Fires weren't the only thing Komatsubara was fighting; Stephens says his friend was also battling cancer.
"He always cared about everybody else, always. And it was usually his family or something like that," Stephens said. "His concerns about his health were never that important."
Both Lee and Stephens say Komatsubara comes from a well-respected firefighter family. His father, Walter, was a well-known Captain for many years.
“Keith was a really nice guy, followed in his father's footsteps … anytime we lose one of our own, it's like losing one of your family,” Lee said.
"He's gonna be an angel for somebody. I'm sure they'll be fine too," said Stephens. "Like I said, they're a very strong family, and we'll all miss him, no doubt about that," said Stephens.