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Wednesday, November 26, 2014         

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Excavators join battle to douse fire at Coco Palms

By Star-Advertiser staff

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 08:51 p.m. HST, Jul 05, 2014


Crews brought in large excavators Saturday afternoon to help extinghuish the fire that broke out Friday at Kauai's Coco Palms, Kauai fire officials say.

The fire started around noon Friday and was contained by 2:15 p.m. 

Kauai Fire Chief Robert Westerman said the main lobby and adjoining offices of the resort are destroyed and the breezeway of a connecting building is badly burned.

A signature, giant conch shell sculpture that had hung above the breezeway since the early 1970s was also destroyed in the blaze, as well as a second-floor wing of the hotel's lagoon building, Coco Palms site manager and tour guide Bob Jasper said Saturday.  

Both of those elements destroyed in the blaze were to be preserved in the latest attempt to eventually reopen the resort, he added.

"It's just a lot of history gone," Jasper said. "We're just real sad. Everybody's just heartbroken."

Fire investigators are working to determine the cause. There was no estimate of the damage available as of Saturday evening, and no injuries were reported.

The Coco Palms is the only Kauai hotel that did not reopen after suffering severe damage from Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

Elvis Presley filmed the wedding scene of the "Blue Hawaii" movie at the Coco Palms in 1961 and sang "The Hawaiian Wedding Song" there. The hotel was originally built in 1953 on grounds that were once the home of Deborah Kapule Kekaiha'akulou, Kauai's last reigning queen.

Several attempts to reopen the hotel over the years have failed.

In May, new developers announced plans to rebuild the resort and open it as a Hyatt hotel in 2017.

The Coco Palms Hui LLC is seeking about $125 million in financing to buy the land and redevelop the hotel.

"We are keeping our heads up and we're going to move forward towards our goal of getting the Coco Palms Hotel back up and running," company principal Tyler Greene said in a message Saturday. "We really appreciate all the care and support the community of Kauai has shown and also how quickly the Kauai Fire department and Police Department responded to the call. We're going to keep charging."

 The heavy-equipment excavators were used to tear down the destroyed lobby and offices and move the rubble while firefighters soaked the exposed areas with foam, according to KFD officials. The stopped working at dusk and will resume Sunday, a KFD release stated.






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