Owner of popular Oahu restaurant chain killed in Pali crash

Owner of popular Oahu restaurant chain killed in Pali crash: Tim's Report
Published: May. 22, 2013 at 2:55 PM HST|Updated: May. 23, 2013 at 12:19 AM HST
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HPD Lt. Robert Towne
HPD Lt. Robert Towne
Randy Flores
Randy Flores
Mary Kodama
Mary Kodama

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The head of a popular local restaurant chain was killed today in a dramatic, high-speed crash that shutdown the Pali Highway for several hours.

Takashi Kiyozuka, president of Grace's Drive Inn restaurants, was driving town bound around 10:30 a.m. when his Acura SUV hit an embankment near Country Club Road.

The impact launched the car into a spiral more than 20 feet into the air and over another car before it landed on its tires more than 70 yards away.

The car skidded across Kailua bound lanes where it eventually crashed about 100 yards away near Puiwa Road.

"A witness said the vehicle did a barrel roll over its vehicle before landing on the roadway somehow without striking any vehicles," said Honolulu Police Lt. Robert Towne.

One driver said he saw Kiyosuka's SUV in his rear view mirror trailing his car at a high speed and braced for impact, before the restaurant owner's car went airborne.

"I heard a very loud noise. That's what brought my attention back to the rearview mirror and that's when I saw his vehicle cross diagonally across all lanes of the Pali," said Kaneohe resident Randy Flores.

Takashi Kiyozuka was rushed to Queen's Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. His wife Yoko is in critical condition, also at Queens.

Police and witnesses said speed was a factor.

"When the vehicle was coming in, it was passing those vehicles like they were at a standstill," Flores said.

"Someone guessed 90 miles an hour. Someone guessed 100."

The accident shutdown the Pali for several hours as police investigated.

"They were detouring the traffic off of Wood Street and once we got to Wood Street," said Manoa resident Mary Kodama.

"Everybody just followed everybody and it was just a big trail of everybody being lost."

Many people may not have known Kiyozuka but many locals know his restaurant Grace's Inn.

He and his wife Yoko bought the Grace's lunch wagon that stayed at UH Manoa in the 70's.  Then they branched out and opened their first brick and mortar location in 1978.  Today two restaurants are still open. One is on South Beretania in Makiki the other is on Moanalua Road in Aiea.

Customers say Grace's is good ol' fashioned comfort food and reminds them of their college days.  Other regulars were saddened by the news.

"Well I was a little shocked, and I found out about it this morning and I was like wow, big time," said Cindy Tran, customer from Makiki.

"It just takes me back to before when I was at UH and they had the lunch wagon so just come over here, eat and say oh okay it's still good," said Evan, customer from Kaimuki.

The manager of Grace's Inn is named Michael Hasegawa.  He says he's worked for the family since a month after it opened in 1978. He was in disbelief when he got the call from the owner's daughter today.  Hasegawa says Kiyozuka had been spending less time at the restaurants relinquishing more control to his daughter Grace.

Neighbors also say Kiyozuka was a nice and quiet man who appeared to be having some medical issues as he was sometimes seen walking around with

Police are still investigating the cause and can't say whether mechanical failure or medical conditions played a role.

The traffic fatality is the twenty-eighth on Oahu this year.

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