Couple sue over fallen Waikiki tree branch

An elderly couple is suing after a branch fell on them at the International Marketplace in February
An elderly couple is suing after a branch fell on them at the International Marketplace in February
Russell and Beverly Narahara
Russell and Beverly Narahara
Wayne Kekina
Wayne Kekina

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -- An elderly couple from Torrance, Calif. sued the owners of the International Marketplace Thursday for negligence, after they were both seriously injured by a falling tree branch at the popular Waikiki bazaar.

Russell and Beverly Narahara were enjoying a trip to Hawaii with their daughters and their grandchildren when high winds struck the International Marketplace Feb. 7 about 3:30 p.m. An eight-foot long banyan tree branch roughly three inches in diameter fell eighty feet, striking the Naraharas as they shopped with their families. 

A photo shows Beverly, 73, on the ground after she suffered a fractured skull and large laceration to her head. Her husband, 71-year-old Russell, fractured his hip in multiple places because of the accident and has been hospitalized in California since he was injured four months ago. 

"Her husband remains at the skilled nursing facility and she has to commute every day to visit with him as well as take care of her residual injury from the skull fracture and the head laceration," said Wayne Kekina, the family's attorney from the firm Cronin, Fried, Sekiya, Kekina and Fairbanks.  

Kekina filed suit against the Queen Emma Land Company, owner and operator of the International Marketplace, for negligence Thursday. 

"The incident would not have happened had Queen Emma Land Company followed proper tree maintenance procedures," Kekina told reporters at a news conference Friday. 

Kekina said city permits show the landowner hadn't trimmed the tree since 2010, up to two years before the incident. Kekina said the tree should have been trimmed at least annually since it's above a marketplace crowded with people.

Kekina said the tree is on a special registry that requires a city permit for trimming. He said a permit was last obtained in 2010 and that the branch was dead for at least two years. 

"Queen Emma Land Company needlessly endangered the safety of the public by failing to exercise reasonable care in monitoring and maintaining this banyan tree," Kekina said.

Hawaii News Now shot video in the immediate aftermath of the accident in February, showing red tape blocking parts of the marketplace and workers cleaning debris that fell from the banyan trees during high winds. 

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages. 

A spokesman for the Queens Health Systems -- owner of the land -- said their policy is not to comment on pending litigation.

Kekina said there is no target date for Russell Narahara, a retired aerospace engineer and general contractor, to get out of the hospital. His wife Beverly is a retired dental assistant.


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