Kapolei tornado survivor talks about his ordeal - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Kapolei tornado survivor talks about his ordeal

Ken Terao Ken Terao
Neil Bernard Neil Bernard

By Leland Kim - bio | email

KAPOLEI (KHNL) - A golf course employee who was tossed around by Wednesday's tornado talks about his frightening ordeal. It tore through a section of the Kapolei Golf Course, leaving a huge mess to clean up.

Things were much more calm Thursday The golf course is pretty much back to order, but to give you an idea how strong the tornado was, it picked up a golf cart and tossed it about 60 feet. Those who lived through it still can't believe it.

Imagine a quiet day at the golf course, and then suddenly seeing an ominous tornado.

"It's loud," said Neil Bernard, an employee at the Kapolei Golf Course. "It's like two trucks colliding. I mean, that thing was loud."

The tornado touched down on Kapolei Golf Course Wednesday afternoon, turning it into Mother Nature's blender.

"When I started seeing golf clubs and everything just flying towards me, that's when I realized it's real," said Bernard. "It's an actual tornado."

He saw the funnel cloud getting bigger and bigger.

"That's when I realized this thing was going to hit us," said Bernard. "That's when I started yelling at employees to take cover so we all kind of ran wherever we could hide."

But before seeking shelter himself, he realized others needed his help.

"But there was a customer driving, and they were still driving," said Bernard. "I don't think they saw it, so they drove right up to here. So I was just trying to help the customer out. I was trying to secure them in the cart. The wind kind of threw me against the cart. Then I realized where I'm at, and I was just in a bad place."

"I was stunned and amazed what he was able to do to try to put his life in harm's way to help our customers," said Ken Terao, the golf course manager. "You know, I mean that's characteristic of Neil."

The twister also tossed Bernard around, injuring his head and back.

"It was like a movie," he said. "I lived through five hurricanes in Pago Pago, America Samoa, but nothing like this up close and personal. It was just like you were watching a movie 3-D."

Cut to the next day. Workers clean up the mess and the insurance company brought in inspectors to assess the damage.

Tornadoes aren't common in Hawaii, but ten have touched down in the islands over the past decade, causing no injuries. To find one in which someone got hurt, you have to go back almost forty years, to January 28, 1971.

Bernard is grateful he wasn't seriously hurt, and says he has a greater appreciation for Mother Nature.

"To actually see that unfold," he said. "Yeah, I've gained a lot of respect for tornadoes."

They don't have an estimate of the damage to the golf course yet. Management says all the material damage can be fixed. They're just grateful no one was seriously injured.

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