Fireworks explosion site investigation moves forward

Photo from helicopter the day of the explosion.
Photo from helicopter the day of the explosion.

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives has begun working at the site of the April 2011 Waikele fireworks explosion.

ATF will remove and dispose of the explosive hazardous materials that remain in the Waikele bunker after the explosion and allow the joint agency investigation to proceed safely.

"We want to ensure that the hazards are removed and properly disposed of and make a safe work environment for bomb technicians and arson cause and origin experts to conduct a complete and thorough investigation," said Jordan Lowe, Resident Agent in Charge of ATF's Hawaii office.

The materials are being safely transported to an undisclosed location where proper disposal takes place.

The ATF continues to support the Honolulu Fire Department in the fireworks explosion investigation. Also participating in the joint agency investigation is the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, the U.S. Department of Transportation and both federal and Hawaii state OSHA.

"Without a doubt this is one of the most difficult investigations that the HFD has done. We are grateful that the ATF and the CSB have brought their expertise to Honolulu and continue to support this investigation," HFD Capt. Terry Seelig said. "The cleanup of the bunker will significantly help this investigation move forward, but there is still much that needs to be done.

"We can not guarantee that it will be possible to come to a definitive cause for this explosion but we can devote considerable resources as we owe the families of those who were fatally injured our best efforts. We also owe them our promise to avoid speculation or preliminary results that aren't yet conclusive, and to notify them first once the investigation is complete."

Agent Lowe added that, "We hope the results of the investigation may help the families understand what occurred, but also contribute to the safe and proper handling of fireworks across the nation. ATF has been involved in explosives investigations for over three decades. While the result of an investigation may help explain what happened, it can also help prevent similar tragedies."

The Waiklele fireworks explosion occurred on April 8 in a storage bunker in the Waikele Business Center. The bunkers are located in Waikele Gulch on the island of Oahu.

Five Donaldson Enterprises Inc. workers suffered fatal injuries from the explosion. Donaldson Enterprises Inc. is an ordnance disposal company that held a contract to store confiscated fireworks and that leased space in the Waikele bunkers.

The actions that preceded the explosion remain under investigation.