By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
HALEIWA (HawaiiNewsNow) – For the third time in less than three months a boat operated by North Shore Shark Adventures was intentionally set on fire at Haleiwa Harbor.
"I've gone from working five days a week to three days a week to one day a week," said Tim Schumacher, one of about 15 employees who work for the company.
He told Hawaii News Now the arson is not just destroying company property and impacting his take-home pay. He said the fires have a negative effect on the broader community.
"Even the sales people in Waikiki," Schumacher said. "It's (hurting) the shave ice stand. If we do (business with) a certain amount of people a day and they spend $20 apiece here in Haleiwa, it's a big impact in our community. So besides personally as workers, this is taking a toll on the community."
Neighbors smelled smoke and noticed the Hokuloa on fire shortly after 11:30 p.m. Thursday.
"All of a sudden I started smelling some electrical and then I went, wait a minute, that's not electric. That's rubber tires. And went rubber tires? Fiberglass. It's fiberglass! And I went charging through my kitchen and looked out the window," said Richard "Skill" Johnson who lives across the street from the harbor.
Johnson said firefighters from the Haleiwa station were dousing the flames. Despite their quick response, the Hokuloa, which was on a trailer next to the road, suffered an estimated $125,000 damage. Another boat, the Moana Kai, which was parked on an adjacent trailer, incurred about $25,000 damage.
In January two boats belonging to North Shore Shark Adventures were destroyed by fire that had been intentionally set. The combined losses from those two blazes totaled $450,000.
"It impacts me personally, and all of our workers," Schumacher said.
The shark tours have stirred controversy. Critics say they bring the predators closer to shore and treat sharks in a manner inconsistent with Hawaiian culture.
North Shore Shark Adventures maintains its operation does not create a safety hazard. The company said it operates at least three miles from shore and does not "chum" the water to attract sharks.
Investigators recovered items from the Hokuloa that may have been used to ignite the fire. Those items will be examined for clues that may help find the person, or people, responsible.
Police are getting help in the case from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
North Shore Shark Adventures is still operating, but now has just one boat. As a result it has been forced to call customers and cancel reservations.
"We've had to cut back way from the three boats or two boats running a day to the one boat, and that means we can only do (accommodate) a certain amount of people. We can't fly them out there. People get disappointed. They don't get to experience it and it's a drag for everybody. I'm pretty emotional about it. It's just a hard situation to be in," Schumacher said.