WAIKELE (HawaiiNewsNow) - There was anxiety, fear, and ultimately, tears as crews recovered two more bodies at Waikele Business Center, where a fireworks explosion ripped through a storage bunker Friday.
Those who had gathered near the bunker Saturday awaited word on the fate of Kevin Freeman of Aiea and Neil Sprankle of Mililani. Both men were 24 years old and graduates of Radford High School. They also served in Afghanistan together.
"They were best friends, brothers," said Gino Dayton, their canoe paddling coach at the Keola O Ke Kai Canoe Club and self-described father figure. "Growing up, they were part of the same crew, they did everything in school, they came in the same profession, so they were like brothers."
"Kevin was always ready to do something," said canoe club member Robert Patcho. "If you were to call him, I'm pretty sure Kevin was going to be there. And so was Neil. Everyone looked up to Neil as one of the best steersmen in our club."
"They were these kids that just came out and had fun and loved paddling and loved being at the beach and hanging with their friends. That's just -- that was them," Dayton said.
Friends were hoping that the two men still inside the bunker would be found, hurt but alive. But Saturday afternoon, they were given the bad news that a police department robot, sent into the storage bunker, had found two bodies, but no obvious signs of life.
"The HPD (Honolulu Police Department) bomb squad made their entry using two personnel in their protective equipment," said Capt. Gary Lum of the Honolulu Fire Department. "They retrieved two bodies from the storage locker. They were turned over to our personnel, and right now the medical examiner has custody."
"The tunnel, the locker, is going to be secured in place. There are hazards that remain, but they're not a danger to the community," said fire Capt. Terry Seelig.
Fire investigators were scheduled to return to the scene Sunday to determine why the explosion happened.
Freeman, Sprankle, and three others who died from the explosion worked for Donaldson Enterprises, which specializes in handling unexploded ordnance.
The company issued a statement, which said, "We at Donaldson Enterprises are deeply saddened by the recent tragedy and we would like to express our deepest sympathies and condolences to their family and friends. these individuals were each exceptional men, and will be deeply missed."
"They were like our kids, so we wished that they were safe when they were doing that kind of stuff," said Dayton.
"We worried about them when they were doing this kind of thing."