Fifth blast victim dies; families in disbelief

Published: Apr. 9, 2011 at 1:47 AM HST|Updated: Apr. 12, 2011 at 8:42 PM HST
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Justin Kelii
Justin Kelii
George Kelii
George Kelii
Deborah Dularte
Deborah Dularte
Terry Seelig
Terry Seelig
Peter Savio
Peter Savio

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

WAIKELE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sportscaster Jim Leahey was scheduled to call Friday night's University of Hawaii men's volleyball game, but took off after learning of his younger brother's death in an explosion at a bunker that stored illegal fireworks awaiting disposal.

The family members of other victims came to the scene of the tragedy in disbelief, while fire crews could do nothing but wait for the danger to subside before they can recover two men who are still inside the bunker.

One of the men killed was Justin Kelii, 29, of Kaneohe. His grandfather and aunt were among those who were given the terrible news at the entrance to the Waikele Business Center, where the bunkers are located.

"Very hard worker," Kelii's grandfather, George Kelii, said. "Very smart boy. I don't know how something like this could happen, especially one explosion while he's there, you know? I don't know."

"He was not only someone who did this and loved what he did, he lived a lot of  things and he meant a lot to our family," said Kelii's aunt, Deborah Dulatre. "We're going to miss him a lot. We still can't believe that this happened."

According to Dulatre, Kelii underwent training on the mainland to handle dangerous explosives. "He just made enough hours to become a Tech 2, which is a higher class and you get paid more for doing that," she said.

Another victim was identified as Robert Leahey, 50, brother of Jim Leahey.

A worker taken to Straub Hospital in critical condition died Friday evening. He was identified as Bryan Cabalce.

Kelii, Leahey, Cabalce and three other men were working for Donaldson Enterprises, which stored the fireworks in the bunker until they could be destroyed.

The bunkers like the one used by Donaldson Enterprises is more than 200 feet deep and 16 feet wide. The Navy cleared them out more than 20 years ago.

The leaseholder for the bunkers said they are built to handle major explosions.

"All I can say is we're lucky it happened in the cave and not in a warehouse or a building in town," leaseholder Peter Savio said.

"It's all contained within the bunker," said Capt. Terry Seelig of the Honolulu Fire Department. "So there's no hazard or danger to any of the community outside or surrounding."

Unfortunately, the bunker has only one way to get in or out. And the Fire Department said it was still too dangerous to go inside.

"There's a heat level that is still causing decomposition of the explosive material," Seeling said Friday evening, several hours after the explosion. "We know that because they continue to periodically detonate."

Seeling said fire and police crews will make an assessment Saturday morning to determine whether it is safe to enter the bunker.

Related story: 4 dead, 1 critical following Waikele industrial explosion

Related story: Donaldson Enterprises: Background behind company involved in Waikele explosion

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