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Company, 2 employees indicted in Waikele fatal explosion case

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 10:55 a.m. HST, Sep 28, 2012

More than a year after a fireworks explosion in a Waikele bunker killed five people, a federal grand jury has indicted two men and their company for engaging in the unpermitted treatment of hazardous wastes.

Indicted by the federal grand jury Thursday for conspiring to treat hazardous wastes without a permit were Charles Donaldson, 37, of Kaneohe; and Carlton Finley, 65; and Donaldson Enterprises Inc, a Hawaii corporation. The grand jury also charged Donaldson, Finley and DEI with 20 counts of treating hazardous wastes without a permit.

Donaldson was the company's director of operations, and Finley was the project manager.

U.S. Attorney Florence T. Nakakuni said DEI entered into a contract with another company and rented a storage bunker at Waikele to store commercial grade fireworks that had been seized by federal law enforcement.

 Upon notification that commercial grade fireworks, which were initially stored as evidence, were no longer needed as evidence, DEI was required to manage and dispose of these “now discarded” commercial grade fireworks as hazardous wastes.

The indictment said DEI initially obtained a temporary emergency permit from the state Department of Health that allowed DEI to transport the discarded commercial grade fireworks to the Koko Head Firing Range for burning. DEI’s temporary emergency permit expired on Sept. 5, 2010.

The indictment further alleges that between Sept. 8, 2010, and April 8, 2011, Donaldson, Finley, and DEI treated hazardous wastes at the Waikele bunker. The  commercial grade fireworks were broken apart or cut open or soaked in diesel fuel without a health department permit.

 The indictment alleges that on April 8, 2011, while DEI employees were engaged in the unpermitted treatment of hazardous wastes, an explosion occurred at DEI’s Waikele bunker killing DEI employees Bryan Cabalce, Robert Freeman, Robert Leahey, Justin Kelii and Neil Sprankle.

The families have filed multiple lawsuits in connection with the deaths.

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