Workers were dismantling fireworks when blast occurred
By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER/Associated Press
POSTED: 2:12 p.m. HST, Apr 14, 2011
An explosion that ripped through an underground fireworks bunker came as workers dismantled pyrotechnics inside, authorities said today.
The blast killed five men and left tools, a hand truck and plastic canopy strewn about the site. The bunker, where seized fireworks were stored before being destroyed by Donaldson Enterprises Inc., still holds explosives that make it too dangerous for investigators to enter. They're piecing together what happened by combing through debris outside, poring over photos and interviewing the lone survivor.
A team of U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators from Denver inspected the Waikele site this week. Lead investigator Don Holmstrom said today his team is trying to determine exactly what the workers were doing when the blast occurred.
The investigators interviewed personnel of Donaldson Enterprises, Holmstrom said, and found that the workers "were in the process of dismantling some of the pyrotechnic devices that were in the storage area."
Holmstrom and his team are working on a plan to take samples from the explosives.
One of the five men died from thermal burns; the Honolulu medical examiner's office on Thursday identified him as Bryan Cabalce, 25, of Wahiawa.
The others died from carbon monoxide inhalation. Three were identified as Robert Freeman, 24, of Aiea; Neil Sprankle, 24, of Mililani; Justin Kelii, 29, of Kaneohe.
The deaths have been ruled accidental. Family members have said the fifth man was Robert Leahey, 50, the younger brother of longtime Hawaii sports broadcaster Jim Leahey.