NUUANU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Outside the Nuuanu Memorial Park Mortuary the long blue line seemed endless. Hundreds of first responders joined in a solemn march to pay their respects to the family of Mitchell Kai.
Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves said he exemplified the department's motto of pride, service and dedication
"For Mitchell Kai, those weren't just words on a page, words on a banner. It was something that he really believed in and lived. It was part of his DNA," he said.
Kai died January 10 from a hiking accident atop Mount Olomana. He slipped off a rope and 50 feet. On Tuesday, his casket was placed on a fire truck and driven past the Kalihi fire station where he worked for two years as a firefighter. He was just getting started and eager to learn
"You give him scoldings or you give him some pointers. Whatever it was, he took what you gave him, thanked you for it and said that he would do better. And he always did," said firefighter Kalai Miller, who worked with Kai in Kalihi.
Kai graduated from Moanalua High School in 2004. His college degree was in biology. His parents asked for privacy during this time of grief.
"He was proud to be a firefighter in the Honolulu Fire Department. and equally we were proud to stand beside him day by day," Neves said.
Kai loved the outdoors. Surfing and hiking were favorite pastimes. And he loved his job.
"We were coming home from an alarm at three o'clock in the morning. We were kind of groggy. It was in the middle of the night, and he said, 'That's okay, guys. Tomorrow we start four days.' And we said, 'How can you have optimism at this time of the morning?'" Miller said.
Kai was an only child. Miller said he joined the department partly because he wanted brothers. They are saddened by his death.
"His legacy will remain forever," Neves said. "His friends in the fire station, all of the people that he touched during his short career will always remember Mitchell Kai."
Kai, 28, was given a final tribute at Hawaiian Memorial Park. His funeral procession passed between a pair of fire trucks.