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Cycling community mourns sudden death of Kailua-Kona bicyclist

Updated: 
October 28, 2017 - 11:04am

KAILUA-KONA — The death of a Kailua-Kona bicyclist left the cycling community shocked and saddened Friday.

“He was a very nice person, a very good person. He loved the triathlon sport,” said Laura Rogers of her longtime friend James Sakai, who succumbed to injuries suffered in a collision with a pickup truck Thursday afternoon.

Sakai, 61, was riding his bike south when the collision with a pickup truck occurred. The driver was traveling north and had attempted to turn at the airport. Hawaii Police Maj. Robert Wagner said the driver, 41, of Kapaau, was flagged through the intersection by a motorist traveling in the opposite direction.

Wagner said Sakai ended up crashing into the bed area of the pickup truck. It’s under investigation and police have not determined who was at fault or released the name of the driver.

In the meantime, Sakai’s death is slowly sinking in with the cycling and triathlete community. Rogers said Sakai competed in several Ironman, Lavaman and other triathlon events. They both competed in Ironman last year.

“He excelled at all those swim, bike, run and stayed very fit,” Rogers said. “He was a very fit and alive person so this is shocking and hard to believe it happened.”

The Kailua-Kona woman said Sakai was also careful while he trained on the roads. Rogers added Sakai watched out for those he trained with.

“He was safety-conscious and not a risk-taker, so it’s hard to believe it happened,” she said.

Grant Miller, owner of cycling shop Bike Works, said Sakai has been a customer of his since his business opened in 1994.

“He loved the triathlon sport,” Miller said. “It was just part of his life.”

Miller said Sakai bought three or four bikes from his store and was always looking to improve his gear.

Miller added he didn’t think Sakai would get hit on the highway because he was cautious.

“It’s really a sad tragedy and it probably didn’t have to happen,” he said.

Miller thinks the issue at that intersection where the crash occurred is a congestion problem.

“Traffic gets backed up and people get angry and they make rash decisions,” he said. “If they had better flow through there, this wouldn’t have happened.”

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