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Families mourn loss of workers

By Robert Shikina and Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 9:04 a.m. HST, Apr 9, 2011

Donaldson Enterprises prided itself on its record of safely clearing hundreds of dangerous explosives and ordnance, but it lost four of the men entrusted with the company's success, and two others were injured in yesterday's tragedy.

Two of the workers killed were Robert Leahey, 50, youngest brother of sportscaster Jim Leahey, and Justin Kelii, 29, of Kaneohe.

"The only thing I got was a call this morning and all they told me was there's been an accident," Jim Leahey said yesterday. "They mentioned his name and I knew from how they said there's been an accident with no hospital, no emergency … from that point, I pretty much knew he was gone."

At one time in his life, Robert Leahey was a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines after working his way up from cleaning airplanes. However, he took some wrong turns in life, according to his brother, and was working to make his life better.

"He really liked what he did because it was exciting and he liked things like that. I had no idea how dangerous it was," Jim Leahey said. He said he didn't know what his brother's role was at the company.

Robert Leahey is survived by a sister and three brothers. "He's the first of the family to go and it really hurts," his brother said. "He was my younger brother and I'm mourning him."

Jim Leahey was scheduled to broadcast the University of Hawaii men's volleyball game last night, but said he would be taking a break from sportscasting.

Kelii's grandfather, George Kelii, said firefighters told the family that Justin was last seen inside the cave when the explosions began.

George Kelii described the young man as "a very hard worker, a very smart boy."

He said his grandson had been working for Donaldson Enterprises for about a year but had known the Donaldson family since childhood.

He appeared to like the job, although the family worried and told him to be careful, George Kelii said.

"We don't know what to think right now," Kelii said. "I don't know how something like this could happen."

Deborah Dulatre, Kelii's aunt, was in disbelief as family members gathered near the job site. "He meant a lot to our family," she said. "We're going to miss him a lot."

Justin was the oldest of three children, leaving behind a brother, a sister, and a mother who was on the mainland.

Dulatre said he had trained on the mainland for the explosives work. "He was really happy that he just made enough hours to become a tech 2, a higher class — you get paid more for doing that."

Dulatre said "this was a special side job" because the company received a contract to dispose of fireworks. "Justin agreed to do this because of the closeness of the family," she said.

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