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Hawaii NewsWhatever Happened To

No one charged in death by errant 2000 fireworks

Question: What ever happened to the case several years ago in which a house fire caused by fireworks killed someone? Was that case ever solved?

Answer: There have been no charges filed in connection with the death of an 81-year-old Palolo Valley woman in a house fire caused by errant fireworks on New Year’s Eve 2000. Police and fire officials opened an investigation into the blaze in the weeks that followed but were unable to collect sufficient evidence to take any legal action.

"Police were canvassing the area, but they never found anyone who knew where the fireworks came from," Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig said.

At 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2000, fire crews responded to a house fire on Myrtle Street in Palolo Valley. The fire engulfed the home of Lillian Herring, claiming her life and the lives of her two dogs.

After combing through the wreckage, fire investigators determined that the blaze was likely caused by fireworks in the home’s carport, where Herring stored stacks of newspapers that she recycled to raise money for children’s charities.

According to witness reports collected by the Fire Department, illegal aerial fireworks — fireworks that travel more than 12 feet in the air — were seen in the sky over the Palolo Valley that evening. With little physical evidence left intact, however, officials could not definitively say what kind of fireworks set off the deadly blaze.

"There appeared to be a lot of aerials in the area that year," Seelig said. "Palolo has had a lot of fireworks in the past, but not any more than any other area."

As Independence Day approaches, the Fire Department is urging the public to observe fireworks laws and use fireworks responsibly.

"Fireworks safety includes using fireworks that are legal and (using them) in the proper manner," Seelig said.

Fireworks are currently on sale across the state, and can be used from 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday.

This update was written by Travis Kaya. You can write to us at What Ever Happened to …, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 5294747; or e-mail cityeditors@staradvertiser.com.


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