Underground blast injures two HECO workers - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Underground blast injures two HECO workers, knocks out power to 1,100 customers

Darren Pai Darren Pai
Bryan Cheplic Bryan Cheplic
Nana Yoshimatsu Nana Yoshimatsu
Capt. Terry Seelig Capt. Terry Seelig

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An underground explosion in Downtown Honolulu Thursday morning injured two workers and left about 1,100 Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) customers in the dark. HECO says all power was restored by about 3:15 PM, some five hours after the blast.

Customers at Vicky's Filipino Fast Food at Fort Street Mall ate pre-prepared food in the dark, after an explosion and a small fire in an underground electrical vault.

"Our crews are working as quickly as they can to restore the power," Darren Pai, HECO spokesperson, said. "We know an outage in the middle of the work day like this is an inconvenience."

The blast happened at about 10:20 AM. People in the immediate area said they felt the ground shake.

A HECO employee working on an underground cable was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

"It appeared that he had flash burns, as well as injuries that are consistent with an explosion, some traumatic injuries," Bryan Cheplic, Honolulu Emergency Medical Services, said.

Another worker had minor burns to his hands.

About 1,100 of the utility's downtown customers, including Hawaii Pacific University, lost power. Nearby, Nana Yoshimatsu of Vita Juice was concerned about her frozen products melting and lost income.

"Lunch time is busy, but now no more customer," Yoshimatsu said. "I don't know what to do. Maybe I'm going to close down."

Because of the electrical cables, HECO and Honolulu fire crews flushed the manhole with carbon dioxide, instead of water, to make sure there was nothing smoldering. They then used a fan to blow out the CO2, and inspected the vault for any flammable or toxic gases.

"All that would have to be eliminated before their workers can go back down," Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department, said. "So we just consulted with them and worked together to make sure that the environment in the vault was safe."

The utility says its first priority was to restore service as quickly and safely as possible. With that done, an investigation into the cause of the blast is now underway.

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