Co-workers mourn man killed in warehouse blaze as investigation continues
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of the two men critically injured Thursday in a large blaze at a Kapolei warehouse has died, authorities confirm.
The man who died was identified as 28-year-old Robert Bowers, of Waianae.
Friends and coworkers knew him as “Chris” and said he was a father who recently started working at the warehouse.
“Just an honest, hard-working guy that was a sincere person," said his friend Chris Connor. “He had a great heart.”
The news comes as the investigation into the fire at Green Auto Recycling continues. Officials said the second victim remains in the hospital and hasn’t yet been interviewed.
Firefighters responded to the fire at Campbell Industrial Park about 3 p.m.
When firefighters arrived, multiple cars were on fire inside the open air warehouse and thick black smoke filling the air could be seen from miles away.
A Honolulu Fire Department spokesman said six units with 19 firefighters worked to fight the flames.
Firefighters declared the fire extinguished at 5 p.m.
The two injured men were taken to the hospital with severe, second-degree burns.
Paramedics said the victims included a 53-year-old man who was initially listed in serious condition.
More information on the second victim was not immediately available.
Coworkers said the 53-year-old victim got burned trying to save Chris.
The cause of the fire is still unknown but employees say it started in an area where gas tanks and exhaust pipes are removed.
“I just heard him yell, screaming ‘Ah!’ And when I looked up, I saw a lot of black smoke so I knew already it was a fire," said coworker Florence Tabion. “He came walking out all burnt.”
Mike Alvarez also tried to save Bowers but said the heat was too unbearable for him.
“I heard him screaming, I seen him engulfed in flames. I couldn’t sleep last night,” said Alvarez. “I was trying to save him but I ran. I got away from the flames. I tried to shoot him with the fire extinguisher. I didn’t want to get close to him. I got burnt once.”
Alvarez said his burns happened two years ago.
Department of Labor records report a worker suffered first and second-degree gasoline burns in a fire in December 2017.
OSHA fined Green Recycling about $6,500 and ordered changes in the workplace after finding eight safety violations including lack of a safety plan, lack of training and lack of first aid equipment.
Kapeteni Pefua was nearby when the fire broke out and said she heard people screaming for help.
“We heard like yelling and screaming like somebody was in pain," she said. "I took a look and it was a fire, a wall of fire. We tried to get our stuff out of the way but the heat was too much.”
First responders closed off the roadway from Kuhela to Olai streets while the fire was active.
Fire investigators also responded to determine the case of the blaze.
Reached at their offices, Green Auto Recycling said they could not comment on the incident.
This story will be updated.
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