(L-R) Kevin Freeman, Neil Sprankle and Justin Kelii
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
More than a year after a fireworks explosion claimed the lives of five men, a federal grand jury has handed down a 21-count indictment against their employer for allegedly disposing fireworks without a permit, in violation of federal law.
The indictment filed Thursday names Donaldson Enterprises Incorporated, along with the company's director of operations Charles Donaldson, and project manager Carlton Finley, as defendants in the case.
Bryan Cabalce, Robert Leahey, Justin Kelii, Robert Kevin Freeman and Neil Sprankle were killed April 8, 2011, when the illegal fireworks they were disposing exploded in a bunker at the Waikele Self Storage facility.
According to the indictment, DEI had a 90-day temporary emergency permit to dispose of fireworks, but the permit expired on September 5, 2010.
The first count of the indictment accuses the company of conspiracy to continue hazardous waste -- the fireworks -- without a permit.
"These guys were working in conditions that they shouldn't have been," said Deborah Dulatre, the aunt of Justin Kelii.
She said she was glad to hear of the indictment, but also said because Kelii and Donaldson were longtime friends. "I took it that because they were friends, Justin was in safe hands," she said. "I felt safe that Justin was working for them because they were friends for so long."
Counts 2 through 21 of the indictment alleges that DEI, Donaldson and Finley knowingly treated the fireworks without a permit -- one count for each time that the company's employees entered the bunker, starting with September 14 and ending with April 8, the day of the fatal explosion.
"Nothing will bring them back, but at least something will be done about what happened to them," said Kelii's cousin Jovette Nahoopii.
"It's a step forward, it's a step in the right direction," said Dulatre. "It just makes you feel like things are going the way its supposed to go, that justice is being done."
No trial date on the indictment has been set. The families earlier this year filed multiple lawsuit in connection with the deaths.