911 call from Waikele explosion prompts changes in dispatcher tr - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

911 call from Waikele explosion prompts changes in dispatcher training

Terry Seelig Terry Seelig

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

WAIKELE (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time we're hearing the frantic moments as the Waikele bunker fireworks explosion was happening from the only survivor.  The emergency call begins with the survivor yelling the names of the victims who were trapped inside the bunker.  He then directs his attention to the operator.  We want to warn you the audio can be painful for some to hear, especially the victim's families.

On April 8th the bunker storing confiscated fireworks exploded.  Investigators are testing residue from inside and hope to release information in the next few weeks about what caused the blast.  Five employees of Donaldson Enterprises were killed.  There was one survivor, a supervisor who made the following call for help.

911 Operator: "What's going on?"

Caller: (Unintelligible) "They're stuck in the fire. The fire in storage they're all in there right now! They're getting burned right now!"

911 Operator:  "Okay what's burning?"

Caller:  "The bunker. The bunker is on fire, Waikele Storage. Please hurry up!"

911 Operator: "Okay we are on our way already sir. What is exactly burning?"

Caller: You got to get (expletive) down here.

911 Operator: "Okay what is burning? Calm down, you're not helping me by being, uh, out of control. What's going on?"

Caller:  "The whole place went up. Oh!"

911 Operator: "Okay do you know what was burning?"

Caller:  "Yes fireworks, diesel, everything, my truck."

911 Operator: "Okay, your truck. Your truck was in there? How do you know there were fireworks in there?"

Caller:  "Because that's our job. We were working to take care, oh my God, to get rid of them."

911 Operator: "Okay how many persons are in there."

Caller: "There's four people stuck in there."

911 Operator: "Ok there are four persons in there. And the truck is in the bunker?"

Caller: "No the truck is outside the bunker."

911 Operator: "Okay so how is it burning on the inside then in the bunker?"

Caller: "It's smoldering."

911 Operator: "Okay it's smoldering."

Caller: "Yes don't you hear it oh my God."

911 Operator: "Okay I cannot hear fire sir calm down. Calm down sir let me help you you're not making it any easier."

Caller: "I can't believe this is (expletive) happening to me! Oh my God! Oh my God!"

911 Operator: "What a (expletive) idiot."

"First of all we want to apologize to the people listening, in particular to the family, this is not our normal standard. It's below our standard of how we process calls," said Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department.

The operator who made the comment is a veteran of the fire department and he'll continue to be.  He will not lose his job.  The department would not comment on any disciplinary action.

"He is very upset at himself and how this was done," said Capt. Seelig.

Firefighters were already on their way and say the call did not slow their response time to the scene.  The call is prompting changes within the department.  All dispatchers will get additional training and regular guidance to make sure proper behavior is being met.

"We have literally hundreds of calls a day but all of them have to be handled the same way. That's what the training will focus on the right way to do things," said Capt. Seelig.

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