Mainland experts to aid in fireworks investigation

Honolulu Fire Department Captain Terry Seelig
Honolulu Fire Department Captain Terry Seelig

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

WAIKELE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Explosives experts from the mainland will assist local authorities in trying to determine what caused a stockpile of fireworks to explode in a Waikele storage bunker killing five men Friday.

"We're working in a joint coordinated manner with ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives), HPD (Honolulu Police Department), and the National Chemical Safety Board. There are national experts that are going to be assisting in helping find out what the cause and origin was," said Honolulu Fire Department Captain Terry Seelig.

Monday Seelig told Hawaii News Now investigators still do not know exactly what the men were doing when the fireworks went off. He said they want to determine how much was in the bunker when the explosion occurred and how long the items had been there.

"Some explosives do start to behave in a more shock sensitive manner once they dry out," Seelig said.

The men were employees of Donaldson Enterprises, which had a contract with the government to store and dispose of confiscated illegal fireworks.

A spokesperson for the Honolulu Police Department said when HPD disposes of fireworks it separates the components before burning flammables. The spokesperson said HPD has its own stash of seized fireworks, but for security reasons she cannot say where it is or how much is in storage.

Friends and family have placed flowers just outside the steel doors of the storage bunker where the explosion occurred in tribute to the five people who were killed.

A note to Kevin Freeman and Neil Sprankle reads, "We will miss you."

The others killed were Bryan Cabalce, Justin Kelii, and Robert Leahey. They were in the bunker, which was built to store military munitions, when the explosion happened.

A sixth person was just outside the bunker and survived the blast. That person and others at Donaldson Enterprises will be interviewed as part of the investigation. Seelig said the investigation is still in the early stages.

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