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10 Amazing Island Stories

Next time you’re out in public, take a look around. The person next to you may have saved a life. Or won a million dollars. You wouldn’t know just by looking at them, you’d have to ask. So we did. Here are some Islanders who have experienced the unusual, done the extraordinary, from the sublime achievement of reclaiming a once nearly extinct language to the wacky experience of winning a musubi eating contest.


(page 5 of 5)

Photo by: Olivier Koning

Jasmine Yamauchi

hit it big in Vegas and stayed the same.

In August, this 26-year-old Waipahu mail carrier won more than $1.8 million on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine at the California Hotel and Casino.

A light started flashing and the machine started making a loud noise. I looked up and it read $1.8 million. My mom said, “What happened?” I couldn’t get anything else out of my mouth except for, “Oh, my God!” 

The first person I called was my Grandma. She said, “Do you know how much taxes are going to take?” I was like, “That’s not the point!”

We didn’t do any celebrating that night. I was so tired. The next day I was a little nervous because my mom made me take her shopping. She wanted to go to all of the fancy places. We didn’t end up buying anything. We actually ate at a vintage-looking McDonald’s. I had wanted to go there the day before. Winning didn’t change that.

Nothing much has changed. I haven’t bought anything yet. A lot of people are telling me what I should do with the money. I’m looking more into paying off my mortgage. We’re going to fix my Grandma’s house.

I’ve never been big on buying things just to buy them. Everyone keeps giving me crap about it because I have this 12-year-old car that I love. I just say, ‘What’s wrong with my car? It works great and the insurance is cheap.’”


Photo by: Brad Lewis

John “Jack” Lockwood

flew over a Mauna Loa eruption in 1975 and his plane started to melt.

The volcanologist has studied volcanoes for more than 30 years in every continent except Antartica.

I’m a pilot and I owned a lightweight fabric-covered aircraft. I was flying about 3,000 feet above an active lava flow on Mauna Loa that was cascading down the north flank.

I had just flown through the clouds and I noticed that something smelled hot. I looked out and I could see water dripping off my wings. I thought, “Well, that’s crazy. I guess that’s from the clouds.” Still, it smelled warm, and I looked at the outside temperature gauge and it read at below freezing. I looked out again and I saw that it wasn’t water; it was paint melting off.

The only light that I had was the glow of the lava flow. Then dawn came and I saw holes in my wings. I didn’t panic, but I knew I had to get the heck out of there. But my passenger realized there was also a possibility the plane’s tires could have also been burned.

I wasn’t really afraid. I’ve been in situations where I thought, “Damn, maybe I’m gonna die.” But dying has never been absolutely the only option I had. You do something else and hope it works out. It turns out the tires didn’t fry and we made a gentle landing.

The situation was a mystery to me, but it’s all physics—radiated heat energy. The dark parts of the plane had absorbed more heat than the light parts.  We were cooking.



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Honolulu Magazine February 2018
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