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Man burned in alleged Hard Rock copper theft is arrested

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 8:55 a.m. HST, Sep 20, 2011

Honolulu police arrested a 34 year-old Moanalua man, who was severely burned earlier this year when he allegedly attempted to break into an electrical vault near the former Hard Rock Cafe to steal copper wire.

The suspect turned himself in at the main police station Monday morning and was arrested for criminal property damage. He remained in custody this morning.

Following the accident on Jan, 5 the man went to the Straub Hospital and Clinic in critical condition. Witnesses said the suspect had burns on his face and body.

Police said the man was seen running from the transformer vault "screaming for help" after he cut a live wire at about 11 a.m.

Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman Darren Pai said the incident at the Hard Rock Cafe caused a fuse to blow at HECO's McCully substation, located across Pumehana Street from McCully Shopping Center.  At least two fireballs, reaching as high as 50 feet, ware reported after the vault exploded, witnesses reported.

Police said the incident caused about $20,000 worth of damage.

About 450 Hawaiian Electric customers in the McCully-Kapiolani area including Ala Moana Center, lost power for three to four hours.

Police are also investigating another copper theft which resulted in another man being severely burned earlier this month. A 45 year-old man  was taken in critical condition to Straub's burn unit Sept. 1 after he allegedly attempted to steal copper wiring from a Sand Island  warehouse .

 Roy Yee,  who owns the empty warehouse at 290 Sand Island Road, said thieves over the past three months have been stripped all the copper wiring and piping from the building.

The suspect was apparently trying to take about 10 feet of wiring connecting the building's disconnect switch to Hawaiian Electric Co.'s transformer, Yee said.

Yee said the suspect's burnt shirt, part of his baseball cap and a head light were recovered from the scene.

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