Boulder removed from Palolo Valley home amid debate over who’s at fault

A company stepped up to remove the estimated 3,000-pound rock.
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 11:29 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2023 at 11:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city has issued a stop work order on a construction project near to where a boulder came crashing down in Palolo, narrowly missing a woman in her living room.

The Department of Planning and Permitting issued the stop work order Tuesday.

Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused that boulder to tumble down the hillside.

Meanwhile, a company stepped up to remove the estimated 3,000-pound rock.

‘All I heard was the boom’: Boulder crashes into home, narrowly missing woman

Workers from Prometheus Construction on Tuesday slowly removed bits and pieces from the huge boulder that’s been sitting in Caroline Sasaki’s home since Saturday.

Company management decided to offer their services for free after seeing her close encounter.

“I’m very grateful and thankful,” said Sasaki.

But Sasaki doesn’t feel like she’s out the woods yet. The boulder’s origin is still unknown.

She and other residents believe a nearby building project that includes a concrete wall holding back the slope contributed to the boulder coming down.

“He dug into the mountain and then put that concrete structure there,” said Sasaki.

The developer, Bingning Li, says he stopped digging into the slope years ago.

“I didn’t do any digging. Just reinforce,” said Li, who believes the boulder came from up above.

The vacant property on the upper slope is owned by another developer, Peter Savio.

“No one is to blame. We allowed homes to be built. There is a ridge there. What we need to do is work on a solution,” said Savio. “I think what we need to do as a city and as a state is work on a cost.”

As the blame game continues, Sasaki says she feels lucky.

But if this happens again, others may not be so fortunate.

In response to Savio’s request, the city issued this statement:

“The DPP’s investigation is ongoing. It would be irresponsible and premature to point any fingers at any particular party, landowner or event not knowing the full details of what has occurred. We will provide more details as they develop.”

The full statement from DPP on Tuesday’s update into the investigation reads as follows:

“The Department of Planning and Permitting continues to investigate and has sent out additional inspectors to further evaluate whether the development is within the scope of the approved building plans. Based on our initial review of the permits for the project, the DPP required an engineering slope hazard report by the developer due to the proposed excavation work, which the developer provided. The report recommended several rock fall mitigation measures, including a 10-foot-high rock fall barrier fencing, and an anchored wire mesh system to stabilize the rock slope. It was determined that the required rock fall barrier fencing did not meet specifications in the approved building permit. The DPP will issue a stop-work order and notice of violation to the owner and contractor of 1816F Palolo Ave., which is directly above the Sasaki home. However, the DPP cannot conclude that the rock fall barrier fencing failing to meet the specifications caused or allowed the boulder to damage the Sasaki’s home.

DPP Director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna visited the Palolo Avenue site today to get a better idea of the extent of the damage, and the measures taken by the developer to mitigate rock falls. In addition, Apuna met with Caroline Sasaki and answered questions that she had. Apuna also informed Mrs. Sasaki that she can begin emergency repairs to her house immediately.”