POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 19, 2011
Question: Whatever happened to the case in which a man was severely injured in an electrical explosion as he allegedly tried to steal copper wire at the abandoned Hard Rock Cafe site at Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue in January?
Answer: The man was released recently from a hospital, police department spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said. Details of his injuries and condition were not available.
Police opened investigations into criminal property damage and copper theft on the day of the Jan. 5 incident. The case remains open, but no one has been arrested, Sluyter said.
Witnesses said flames shot 50 feet high in the explosion at the former Hard Rock Cafe site, at one of the city’s busiest intersections.
The explosion was followed by an electrical failure that affected more than 450 Hawaiian Electric Co. customers in McCully and Ala Moana.
Tenants at Century Center, across the street from the site, had no electricity for five hours after the 11 a.m. incident. Sections of Ala Moana Center, including Longs Drugs, were without power for shorter periods.
The man, 33, was taken in critical condition to the burn unit at Straub Hospital & Clinic, a spokesman for the city Department of Emergency Services said at the time.
Police and HECO officials said there was evidence that someone tried to break into a green electrical vault at a corner of the site in an attempt to steal copper.
Witnesses said they heard a loud boom and saw two fireballs and smoke, followed by an injured man stumbling toward the bus stop on the Kapiolani side of the property.
One witness said the man appeared to be so badly burned that his skin was dripping off him.
HECO officials said the incident caused a fuse to blow at a HECO substation, across Pumehana Street from McCully Shopping Center, two blocks from the explosion. That caused several nearby customers to lose power, HECO said.
Copper thieves strike most often along highways, stealing wiring from roadway lighting circuits. The state last year estimated it spent at least $3 million to replace stolen highway lighting wiring.
This update was written by Gordon Y.K. Pang. Suggest a topic for “Whatever Happened To …” by writing Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.