“Over here you still get aloha”: Maui man helps elderly couple stranded on Hāna Highway
A state parks caretaker in East Maui is being praised for his acts of kindness after helping an elderly couple who became stranded by a flat tire along the Hāna Highway on a fateful night in mid-December.
“He was just so nice and he didn’t need to be,” said Sheila Kane, 77, of Tennessee, who along with her 88-year-old husband, Dan, were forced off the side of the road by another driver who they say was in a big hurry.
One of the tires on their rented convertible was sliced by a rock, and there was no spare tire, according to a DLNR press release.
DLNR Division of State Parks Maui caretaker William “Wade” Latham came to their rescue not once, but multiple times over the course of six hours.
“I just couldn’t leave them. I mean, you know in the middle of nowhere, no cell service, no nothing. No lights, no nothing. No food, no drink. Anybody would’ve done that, you know help them out,” said Latham.
In a letter sent to DSP, the Kane’s detail the circumstances of what started out as a nightmare, but ended up being one of their vacation highlights.
“You know, you go to a country, and you can see beautiful sights, but really what makes an experience wonderful is when you meet somebody or a family where you really get to feel the heart of the people and I really felt like we had that opportunity with Wade,” said Sheila in a virtual interview.
According to Sheila, a few people stopped, but no one could offer help, until Latham came along.
For 30 years Latham has been keeping state parks across Maui clean. He is primarily responsible for three parks on the island’s east side, but like his co-workers he helps out in other parks across the Valley Isle.
Latham says he made five trips from the Kane’s disabled car to his home, five miles away, to make calls on their behalf to a rental car company, multiple tow truck operators, an auto club and even the Maui Police Department.
“Each time he came back he provided information, and even food and water. He offered to have us spend the night with him and his wife, but we were reluctant to leave our car in the event someone came looking for us,” Sheila said.
After more than six hours of back and forth, Latham reluctantly told the couple, around 11 p.m., he needed to go home and get some sleep, given his early workday ahead.
“It’s scary to be up in a place you don’t know, it’s dark, you don’t have internet, you really are kind of in a desperate state. Dan and I would’ve had to actually walk down that road to try to find somebody that could help. And nobody wants to walk on that road at night, it’s hard to drive on during the day,” said Sheila.
About half an hour after Latham last saw them, a tow truck showed up with a replacement car and their ordeal came to an end just before midnight.
Sheila described Latham as selfless, kind, concerned, and helpful.
“It was a great-terrible experience. I guess that’s the only thing I can say about it. It was so good to know that somebody was there to help. He really was a guardian angel,” said Sheila.
Latham’s boss, DSP Maui Superintendent Larry Pacheco said he’s not surprised at what transpired.
“Wade exemplifies the very best qualities of a group of workers who typically shun the spotlight. He’s an example for all of us about how we should and can treat all visitors and residents.”
“Throughout the years I’ve helped a lot of tourists change tires, unlock cars, and even provide gas. This was just one of those situations. I felt obligated to take care of our kūpuna,” Latham said. “‘Over here you still get aloha,’ I told them. So, they got the true meaning that night for