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Waimanalo couple, A&B exec describe close call with bombings

By Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 5:34 p.m. HST, Apr 15, 2013

Boston Marathon spectators Kamuela and Tasha Yong, of Waimanalo, were “dead center” between the two blasts — about 20 to 30 yards from each.

Kamuela Yong said the first blast “sounded like a cannon.” Seconds later, the second explosion happened and the Yongs ran into a nearby department store with a crowd of other spectators.

“Everybody started to run. People were knocking over mannequins to get away,” he said in a telephone interview with the Star-Advertiser.

Yong said he had no idea what was happening, “but we just wanted to get away.”

Chris Benjamin, president and chief operating officer of A&B Properties, Inc., had finished the Boston Marathon about eight minutes before the blasts went off.

He was 50 to 100 yards away from the explosion near the finish line, and his family was in the stands across the street from the blast.

Benjamin said it was about 15 nerve-wracking minutes until he was reunited with his wife and daughter.

His wife, Melissa, said the blasts “sounded like a loud cannon, a lot of people thought it was part of the festivities.”

She added, “It was very distressing because we didn’t know if everyone was safe.”

Chris Benjamin was in the marathon with a team of runners raising funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He was running in honor of his daughter, Natalie, who has Type 1 diabetes.

Yong, a 28-year-old a post-doctoral fellow in applied mathematics at Arizona State University, arrived in Boston last week for a six-week visiting scholar position at MIT.

He said minutes before the first blast occurred, he and his wife, 26, were standing “right in the explosion zone.” They decided to walk closer to the finish line and were making their way there when the blasts happened.

Yong, his voice shaking, said the events of the day are still running through his mind. 

“It really reminded me of what I’ve seen on the news from September 11th or the mideast,” he said. “We’re really shaken up.”

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