Rafu Staff and Wire Reports
LA MESA — A runaway car crashed into a San Diego County nursing home and killed an 89-year-old veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Police say the 2001 Audi S4 was parked at the top of a hill in La Mesa on June 26 but the driver didn’t set the parking brake or left the car in neutral.
Lt. Ray Sweeney told U-T San Diego that the car rolled backward about 260 feet, arcing across a road and smashing more than three feet into the room of Henry “Hank” Hashiguchi.
According to the medical examiner, the car bumped Hashiguchi’s chair, knocking him to the floor. He struck his head and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
The driver was identified by 10News as Diego Wright, 24, who claimed that he put the car in park and set the brake. The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office will determine whether to file charges, but as of Monday had not yet received a report from the La Mesa Police Department.
Hashiguchi, who suffered from some dementia, was living at Elmcroft of La Mesa, 4960 Mills St. His wife of 59 years, Mollie, passed away in 2006 at age 79.
Born on March 21, 1923 to Issei parents in San Diego, Hashiguchi was interned at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and the Poston, Ariz. War Relocation Authority camp during World War II.
Hashiguchi served as a staff sergeant with Company I of the 442nd, which participated in the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” of Texas in France’s Vosges Mountains in October 1944. He received two Purple Hearts. During his tour of duty, he was shot in the neck, his son, Rich, told NBC San Diego.
On March 11, Hashiguchi was among the honorees at a San Diego ceremony in which veterans of the 442nd, 100th Infantry Battalion and Military Intelligence Service received replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal from Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista). The ceremony was for veterans who could not attend the Washington, D.C. ceremony in November 2011.
Hashiguchi was one of only 17 veterans to be honored in person; many more were represented by family members.
“He was so happy when this happened,” his daughter, Donna West, told NBC San Diego. “I’m glad he lived long enough for it.”
Hashiguchi’s children say they can’t believe their father survived the war only to die in such a bizarre manner. They want the car’s owner to be held accountable. “People need to take responsibility for their actions,” West said.
Services were held June 30 at Community Mortuary in Chula Vista.