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Fire engulfs home, critically injures couple in their 80s

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 3:46 p.m. HST, Apr 27, 2011

Three passersby are credited with rescuing an elderly disabled woman from a fire that destroyed a Wilhelmina Rise home this morning.

A couple in their eighties was taken to the hospital in critical condition after a fire and several explosions destroyed a home estimated by neighbors to be at least 50 years old at 3953 Koko Drive.

Released from the hospital after treatment for smoke inhalation was Carl Loando, a surveyor with ControlPoint Surveying, who is credited with pulling an elderly woman out of the burning house.

Neighbors identified the couple as Kenneth and Helen Choy and said they had lived in the home on the corner of Koko Drive and Paula Drive for at least 50 years.

Loando and Christopher Newman were doing a boundary survey for a private owner on Napali Place, about a block away when the fire broke out at about 8 a.m.

Newman said he and Loando saw smoke coming out of the home and called 911.

“We saw a man (Kenneth Choy) who said his wife was still in the home,” Newman said. “He (Loando) ran into the house and carried the woman down the ramp and out to the garage.”

From there Newman and an unidentified passerby carried the woman to the middle of the street away from the flames which were consuming the garage and the house.

“Everything went really fast, within five minutes,” Newman said. “It was the worst (fire) I’ve ever seen.”

Minutes after they brought the woman out of the home, Newman said he heard several explosions.

The woman was hooked up to a small oxygen tank; Newman speculated that the explosions may have come from other oxygen tanks in the home.

“Power lines started falling. The house exploded,” Newman said. He said the woman was in “bad condition.”

“I saw a lot of blood,” he said.

Newman said he didn't think she had been burned, but that the blood was from a pre-existing condition.

Newman added that Loando also asked for his help, telling him he couldn’t breathe.

Tiffany Sato-Holt, who lives next door to the Choys, said she and her husband smelled smoke.

“My husband opened our bedroom window and saw black smoke,” Sato-Holt said.

“My husband tried to get into the house, but was turned away because of the intense heat and smoke,” she said. “It was quite frightening. I thought it might spread to our house.”

One of the explosions could also have been caused by the gas tank of a car parked in the garage.

Sato-Holt said firefighters told her that her home was affected by only water damage. She said it looked like the fire started at Choy’s patio, which is next to their bedroom.

Smoke and the flames could been seen for miles since the home sits on a ridge.

Penelope Hazard, who lives on Pukalani Place below the house, said she heard four or five explosions this morning and went outside with her mother to look. “Flames were shooting all over,” she said.

Heather Little, who lives on the next ridge, said she was jogging down Sierra Drive when she noticed a “tiny fire” coming from the back of the home. When she rounded a corner and looked again about five minutes later, “It was just an absolute inferno.”

About 34 firefighters from eight fire companies responded. No damage estimate was available and the cause was under investigation. The fire was brought under control at 9:40 a.m.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross also responded to the scene.

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