From record heat to TMT protests, these were some of the biggest stories of 2019

Updated: Dec. 30, 2019 at 11:36 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s been a year of unforgettable headlines. Of stories that divided the community ― and of stories brought us closer together.

Here are some of the top stories of 2019:

Three pedestrians, several injured in Kakaako crash

In January, police say 27-year-old Alins Sumang was drunk and going at least 50 mph when he struck and killed three pedestrians at the intersection of Ala Moana Boulevard and Kamakee Street.

Several others were seriously injured.

Sumang's trial is set for February.

Tour helicopter slams into busy Kailua street

Two visitors and a pilot were killed in April when their tour helicopter burst into flames after crashing nose-first onto a busy roadway in the middle of a Kailua neighborhood.

According to the NTSB report, witnesses saw parts of the helicopter spinning off and said none of the rotor blades were moving before it fell out of the sky.

Skydiving plane crashes shortly after takeoff, killing 11

One of the worst civilian aviation disasters in Hawaii history happened in June.

A twin-engine skydiving plane crashed shortly after take-off on the North Shore and burst into flames, killing all 11 people onboard.

In a stunning news conference the next day, NTSB investigators publicly criticized the FAA for failing to adopt tougher oversight of skydiving operations — putting the agency "on notice."

Kealohas convicted in massive public corruption trial

This year saw a shocking fall from the top for ex-Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his former deputy prosecutor wife Katherine Kealoha.

The former power couple was convicted of obstruction and conspiracy in a public corruption scandal in June.

[Relive the biggest stories of the decade in Hawaii in HNN’s “Decade in Review”]

As the so-called "Mailbox Trial" unfolded, prosecutors revealed how the Kealohas stole money from Katherine's aging grandmother, then framed her uncle with a staged crime ― the theft of the couple's mailbox ― in a bid to hide what they'd done.

Sentencing is scheduled for next year, but experts say ripple effects may be felt far beyond that as Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro has also received a target letter from federal investigators in the abuse of power probe.

Hawaii sees a summer of record heat

Sweltering heat swept across the state extending well past the summer months.

The National Weather Service says Hawaii experienced more than 200 official record-breaking or tying highs since April.

Kahului saw the most by far with at least 35 records tied and 48 broken. And Maui's drought conditions contributed to dozens of wildfires across the island as firefighters worked to protect homes, businesses, residents and even rescue pets at the Maui Humane Society.

Tulsi Gabbard launches presidential bid

In October, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced she won't run for re-election to Congress as she chooses instead to focus on her bid for president.

The Democrat, once considered a rising star in her party, faced swift criticism for casting a "present" vote on the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump and for reportedly missing over 85% of the other House floor votes since October, according to GovTrack.

Former Congressman and Gov. Neil Abercrombie called on her to resign.

2 killed in Pearl Harbor shooting

Two civilian Department of Defense contract workers were shot and killed in December before the shooter — active-duty sailor Gabriel Romero — turned the gun on himself at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, triggering a massive lockdown of the base and surrounding area.

The 22-year-old had been assigned to stand watch at a submarine undergoing repairs and used his service weapons ― an M4 rifle and an M9 pistol ― in the attack.

Protesters block construction of TMT

Thousands of protesters — and celebrities — descended on Maunakea this summer to protest the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Opponents have maintained a 24/7 blockade along the access road since July. Thirty-eight protesters were arrested before law enforcement called the operation off.

Just days ago, state and county officials agreed to a two-month truce in exchange for TMT opponents agreeing to move to the side of the road.

Meanwhile, TMT officials blamed the state and county for failing to demonstrate they are able to provide safe access to Mauna Kea.

Other projects also trigger protests

Similar opposition has been inspired against other development projects on Oahu.

Honolulu police made at least 161 arrests in Kalaeloa and Kahuku, when protesters tried to prevent the construction of the AES Na Pua Makani Wind Farm.

They say they're worried about the impact to their health and potentially endangering the Native Hawaiian bat.

But all the parts were successfully transported for eight turbines, which are projected to produce enough power for 16,000 homes.

Meanwhile, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has reportedly reached an agreement to abandon plans for a multi-purpose athletic field, playground and parking lot intended as part of the Waimanalo Bay Beach Park Master Plan.

In September, 28 people were arrested for blocking construction crews and equipment. Although, just last week, 11 of those cases were dismissed.

Work on the project began over the summer but stalled when the group “Save Our Sherwoods” raised concerns that construction could desecrate iwi kupuna or human remains.

As we prepare to bring this decade to a close, join us as we explore the stories that changed the state over the last 10 years in a new HNN documentary.

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