"Miracle I'm alive," a Lahaina man said, after a horse ran into the car he was driving, going over the hood and tearing back a portion of the roof Thursday morning on Haleakala Highway.
"I was going under the speed limit," said Chad Mitsuyoshi, 42, who suffered scratches and cuts in the collision that occurred before dawn as he was driving uphill on a winding portion of the highway near Kealaloa Avenue. "If I was going faster, I'd be dead."
He was at a blind turn, Mitsuyoshi said, when "the horse came straight for the car."
Chad Mitsuyoshi, a Maui News driver, was treated for scratches to his arms and cuts to his lip and cheek after a horse ran into the 2006 Hyundai Elantra he was driving Thursday morning on Haleakala Highway.
The Maui News photo
The roof of a 2006 Hyundai Elantra is torn back and its windshield is shattered after a horse ran into the car Thursday morning on Haleakala Highway. Police said the horse, which apparently got loose from a nearby pasture, died after hitting another vehicle on the road.
The Maui News photo
"I didn't even have time to brake," he said. "That was the brake - the horse."
After colliding into the 2006 Hyundai Elantra four-door sedan that Mitsuyoshi was driving, the horse was thrown into the oncoming lane, hitting a 2007 Pontiac two-door sedan driven by a 53-year-old woman, said Maui police spokesman Lt. Wayne Ibarra. He said the horse died at the scene.
About 30 seconds after that collision, a second horse collided with a 2008 pickup truck driven downhill by a 34-year-old man, Ibarra said. He said that horse suffered broken hind legs.
The drivers of the Pontiac and pickup weren't injured in the collisions that were reported to police at 6:23 a.m., Ibarra said.
He said the two horses ended up on the highway after getting loose from a nearby pasture. He said the owner showed up to claim the second horse, but police on Thursday afternoon were still looking for the owner of the horse that died. A nearby property owner took the dead horse into a pasture until the owner could be located, Ibarra said.
He said police documented the collisions, but it wasn't clear whether cases would be filed that would prompt further investigation into the livestock on the roadway.
"Whenever you're driving in rural areas near pastures, you have to be aware of livestock and other animals, including deer," Ibarra said. "Drivers have to be cautious if they see animals on the side of the road. They can be unpredictable."
Mitsuyoshi, a driver for The Maui News, was nearing the end of his workday and heading to check newspaper vending machines at Kula Lodge and Kula Hospital when the horse hit the work vehicle. Mitsuyoshi said he was about a quarter-mile above King Kekaulike High School and was thinking about deer that are often along the road when he saw something brown heading for the car.
The horse apparently went over the car, hitting the top and tearing off a portion of roof. The windshield was shattered on the car, which was towed from the scene and considered a total loss.
He could feel the impact with the horse, Mitsuyoshi said, but the car had been going so slowly that it didn't move when the collision occurred.
"It was so fast," Mitsuyoshi said. "Couldn't do nothing. The horse was right in the middle of the road running.
"I was just lucky, now that I think about it," he said Thursday afternoon, after being checked by a doctor.
Mitsuyoshi's right arm was bandaged at the elbow where he suffered a scratch from the car roof, which "just missed my head," he said. He also suffered scratches on his hands and cuts to his swollen right cheek and lip.
Mitsuyoshi, who had been wearing his seat belt, had advice for other drivers to "always be careful and just drive slow."
"That's what saved my life, driving slow and wearing a seat belt," he said.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.