- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

HOLUALOA, Hawaii (AP) - The scout master of an astronaut who died 30 years ago aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger remembered the man at his childhood school.

Ellison S. Onizuka died Jan. 28, 1986. The public school he attended as a child is now the Makua Lani Christian Academy, where Norman Sakata addressed 35 students, West Hawaii Today reported (http://bit.ly/1nuXuBI).

Sakata said he saw smoke and a flash of light a little more than a minute after the Challenger took off, with debris falling into the ocean. He remembered Onizuka as a disciplined member of the Holualoa Explorer Post 26 between the ages of 14 to 18. He said the teenager was always trying to better himself.

Makua Lani parent Mellisa Beatty says she was an Oahu fourth grader when the Challenger exploded. She said her teacher wheeled in a TV so the class could watch the shuttle lift off.

“When the shuttle exploded, she was shaking, and everyone was crying,” Beatty said.

“What I take away is not so much a science role model,” said Makua Lani junior Taylor Mabuni. “But more the impact that he had on the community while he was here, even before he went out to do the things he did.”

Sakata read the class a passage from a letter Onizuka sent him.

“It is only because of people like you that people like me can grow up in the coffee fields of Kona and fly in a space shuttle.”

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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