Blast victim's friends, family hold candles, seek answers

Justin Keli'i
Justin Keli'i
Deborah Dulatre
Deborah Dulatre
Danielle Batistti
Danielle Batistti

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

WAIKELE (HawaiiNewsNow) - A turnaround at the end of Pakela Street in Waikele is not the first place that comes to mind to hold a memorial.

But it is the entrance to the Waikele Business Center. Far from home, but a place that holds meaning for the family of Justin Keli'i.

"We wanted to come here because this is where we got our news of what happened," said Keli'i's sister, Jaymee.

Keli'i and four other men were killed in an explosion a week as they were disposing of confiscated fireworks in a storage bunker at the center.

"We thought it would be a good opportunity to have all the families come together, as we're going through the same hurt that they are, and the same grief that they're experiencing as well," Jaymee Keli'i said.

Most of the dozens who attended Friday night's vigil were friends and family of the 29 year-old Kaneohe man. Many of them wore red to show their unity, and to remember all five men killed.

"We just wanted to come together and honor all of them, what they meant to us," said Keli'i's aunt, Deborah Dulatre. "As you can see, a lot of people loved Justin. So what I said about him being a loyal friend -- it's true."

While they remembered those who lost their lives in the blast, the family also was seeking answers that have proved elusive so far.

"I haven't heard anything new, you know, that would give us real closure on the issue," said Danielle Batistti, Keli'i's mother. "There's a lot of inconsistent information, so, you know -- there's not enough yet."

"It's hard to realize he's not here," Jaymee Keli'i said. "Even if i don't see him daily, there' still no closure. There's still no answers. So I think that's frustrating."

Investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are still trying to determine what caused the explosion.

Even as they gathered, family and friends still struggled to grasp what happened a week ago.

"I don't think it has really hit us yet, the magnitude of what just not only happened to Justin but what happened to these five men and the trail of loss that it's left behind," Dulatre said.

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