Procedure keeps watercraft donation from life-saving use

By CLAUDINE SAN NICOLAS, Staff Writer POSTED: May 25, 2008

The mother of an 8-year-old boy killed in a head-on car crash last year has sought to turn her personal tragedy into something positive, even life-saving, for others.

Using her own money and her father’s as well as donations, part-time Maui resident Susan Moulton purchased a $14,000 personal watercraft in January for Maui County ocean safety officers.

But in four months, Maui County officials have not accepted the gift because proper procedure for the county to receive it has yet to be followed. The delay has frustrated Moulton, who has been eager to see the watercraft put to its intended use.

“To me, this was something personal, and I wanted very much to give something that would save lives,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Texas.

This week, with the first anniversary of her son’s death approaching, she will return to Maui to honor him and to raise money in his name for local children and safety programs. Her desire to help others, particularly children, is rooted in tragedy.

On June 3 last year, Moulton was driving with her son, Will Smith, in the front passenger seat, toward Wailuku on Honoapiilani Highway near Ukumehame Wayside Park. Then, her rental car was hit head-on by a then 23-year-old Lahaina woman driving a Mazda sedan. The force of the collision cut the Mazda in two, but the woman and Moulton walked away from the accident. Smith sustained severe internal injuries and died on an operating table at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

No arrests have been made in connection with the accident. But it remains under investigation.

Following Will’s death, Moulton experienced an outpouring of support from family, friends and even strangers on Maui who showed up for a memorial last July for Will in Kaanapali.

Moulton has since fulfilled a promise to establish the Will Smith Foundation, a nonprofit committed to raising funds for needy causes, including providing positive life experiences to children through art, music, acts of compassion and safety programs. In February, the foundation donated 10 car booster seats for children valued at $400 to the Safe Community of Maui.

On June 14, a 5-kilometer run for adults and a 2-kilometer run for kids has been scheduled at Kanaha Park in Kahului. Proceeds from the event organized in conjunction with the Valley Isle Road Runners will benefit the Will Smith Foundation.

Moulton said that on Maui, in particular, she wanted to contribute to public safety programs and consulted with at least one Maui ocean safety officer about what to do.

The $14,000 personal watercraft was modified specifically for Maui County lifeguards to do ocean rescues. And, although frustrated with the four-month delay in the county accepting the gift, Moulton continues working with county officials.

County spokeswoman Mahina Martin said the office of Mayor Charmaine Tavares wants to make sure the personal watercraft is accepted properly through a written resolution and a vote to accept it by the Maui County Council.

“For us, it’s a procedural thing,” she said.

Martin said the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation is in need of the watercraft and appreciative of Moulton’s generosity.

“Certainly, we appreciate her enthusiasm,” Martin said.

Recently, the Will Smith Foundation donated $2,000 worth of school supplies and classroom carpets to Kahului Elementary School. Moulton said she also plans to match funds being raised by the Maui United Soccer Club Girls 94 team to attend a western region tournament in mid-June in Honolulu. The team was crowned State Cup champion in the under-14 age group division.

Moulton is scheduled to arrive on Maui on Tuesday and will mark her son’s one-year death anniversary in the area where he died. She’ll also help to oversee the June 14 fundraising event.

To make a donation to the Will Smith Foundation, visit

• Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at