PAHOA, Hawaii >> Noah Friend returned to Leilani Estates on Monday to find a 10-foot-wide crack running 500 feet long through his backyard and beneath his house.
The 32-year-old Leilani Estates resident moved onto the property 13 years ago with fiancee Shantel Pacarro, 31, after she became pregnant with their first child.
The couple had envisioned eventually passing their beloved home on to their children, 12-year-old daughter Naiah and son Nainoa, 11.
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“It’s just heartbreaking. There’s so many memories in that house. This is very devastating for our whole family, even our children. They grew up there. It’s the only home they knew,” she said. “We’re all heartbroken.”
At about 5 years old, Friend would fly with his father to the Big Island every weekend from Kauai, where they lived at the time, as the father worked on building the Leilani Estates home. It took him more than a year to complete.
“My father-in-law, all his hard work and sweat … he wanted to pass it on to his son, hoping that he would pass it on to his children,” Pacarro said. “He’s hurting the most.”
At first it started as tiny cracks.
“Every time we would go home, it either grew in width or in length. With every tremor and every earthquake, it’s opening up the crack even more,” she said. “There’s a possibility the crack might get so wide the house could collapse and fall in.”
When the family scrambled to evacuate a couple of weeks ago, they took only their photographs and most important documents. Everything else they left behind. Pacarro said the house has shifted at least 4 feet and is now leaning to one side. All of their remaining belongings are ruined by the sulfur dioxide from Kilauea Volcano, she said.
The home of their neighbor Tam Hunt is still standing, though he can no longer live in it. He bought it for $335,000 in April 2017. A crack runs from his backyard into Friend’s property and across the street, Hunt said.
“I knew it was covered by lava hundreds of years ago, but I didn’t expect it to happen a year after I bought my home,” said Hunt, 47. “You’re playing the odds. I’m in this weird limbo state where my house is not destroyed but I can’t use it. It’s a weird place to be in. Everybody’s trying to figure out how to rebuild and how to recover from this.”
Pacarro describes the area as the best neighborhood she’s ever lived in, with friends who looked out for each other and watched each other’s homes. While the unfortunate chain of events is devastating and shocking, all the residents are trying to pick up the pieces, she said.
“Everybody on our street is amazing. Everybody has each other’s backs. You can see love and kokua that everybody gives in our community even before this happened,” Pacarro said. “I’m praying for everyone’s homes, but I’m mostly praying no one gets hurt during this process. Home is whatever we make it. As long as we’re all together, that’s our home. That’s what I try to explain to my children.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to help the Pacarro-Friend family at https://www.gofundme.com/pacarrofriend-ohana.