Friday, November 27, 2015         

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Arson damages tour boat used for shark tours

The second fire to affect the same outfit does $225,000 in damage

By Rosemarie Bernardo


Honolulu fire investigators have determined a fire that heavily damaged a 30-foot shark tour boat yesterday at Haleiwa Harbor was intentionally set.

It was the second suspicious fire involving a North Shore Shark Adventures boat this month.

The fire occurred at 12:11 a.m., and firefighters extinguished the fire within 10 minutes, fire officials said. The blaze damaged the front end and cabin of the boat. No one was on board the boat or in the area when firefighters arrived.

Damage was estimated at $225,000. The case was turned over to police.

Arson, a felony, carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. There were no arrests as of yesterday, according to police spokeswoman Michelle Yu.

The fire came three weeks after an intentionally set fire destroyed another shark tour boat owned by North Shore Shark Adventures. That blaze occurred at about 12:40 a.m. Jan. 7. Heat from the fire also damaged a nearby vessel. Damage to the shark tour boat was also estimated at $225,000.

The company's two damaged boats, Kailolo and Kolohe, were dry-docked on the Waimea side of the harbor. According to Hawaii News Now, North Shore Shark Adventures has one boat remaining to conduct tours.

Owner Joe Pavsek told Hawaii News Now the fires are putting 17 people out of work temporarily.

The captain of a sports fishing charter said he empathizes with the North Shore Shark Adventures owner, saying company employees' livelihoods are affected.

"That's terrible for him," said Capt. Ryan Hopper, of the boat Grand Slam, operated by North Shore Sportfishing.

Hopper said he is concerned the fires could affect other businesses operating out of the harbor.

"This is my primary income here," he said.

North Shore Shark Adventures is one of two shark tour companies that operate out of Haleiwa Harbor. The other company, Hawaii Shark Encounters, is owned by Stefanie Brendl.

Five days ago, Wahiawa District Judge Christopher McKenzie dismissed charges against five current and former employees of the two shark tour companies who were accused of feeding sharks in state waters. Charges were dismissed after federal officials refused to submit a user's manual and related materials for a top-secret tracking device that officers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used to track the location of the tour boats.

While the motive for the fire is unknown, Mahina Chillingworth of Hui o Hee Nalu, a group of surfers and other members opposed to shark feeding, said that someone out there clearly is upset.

Chillingworth said she was shocked to hear another boat fire occurred.

"I'm glad nobody got hurt or nobody got killed," she said.

Antya Miller, executive director of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, said, "It's pretty tragic that he lost two boats."

Miller added, "This is a legitimate company. The owner and the employees' livelihood are being affected."


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