UPDATE: Hapuna Beach Ordnance Removed, Still Unidentified
by Dave Smith
***Updated at 10:05 a.m., Monday, June 17.***
A piece of possible unexploded military munitions that forced the closing of a South Kohala park Friday was removed that evening by an explosive ordnance disposal team that had flown to the Big Island from Schofield Barrackso Oahu.
The “mortar-like” device was taken by the EOD team to Pohakuloa Training Area on Saddle Road, said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Lt. Col. Karl Ivey, of Schofield Barracks public affairs,today told Big Island Now that the ordnance remains unidentified.
“We checked our data base and were unable to find an exact match,” he said.
After explosive experts are able to identify its origin the device will be destroyed, Ivey said.
Hapuna Beach was reopened Saturday morning, Ward said.
Posted at 1:40 p.m. Friday, June 14:
The discovery of a possible piece of unexploded ordnance this morning prompted the closing today of Hapuna Beach.
Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward said a tourist diving found the ordnance offshore. It was not immediately clear how far offshore or at what depth it was found.
The man brought the ordnance up to the beach’s snack bar where it remained at mid-day, Ward said.
He also called the county fire department which notified police who cordoned off the area around the snack bar.
An explosive ordnance disposal team from the US Army’s Schofield Barracks on Oahu was contacted and was expected to arrive at the scene at about 4 p.m. today, she said.
Ward said personnel with the DNLR’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement were in the process of evacuating the beach.
The ordnance was described as “mortar-like.”
From its description, EOD team members said the object could be an illumination flare, Ward said.
It will be up to the Schofield team to determine how to dispose of the object, Ward said.
Hapuna was one of a variety of areas in South Kohala used for military exercises during World War II.
The Army Corps of Engineers conducted a $9 million sweep of the Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area between September 2011 and Jan. 31, 2012. The search resulted in the finding of several pieces of unexploded ordnance, including a live Japanese hand grenade found lying on open ground above the park.
The beach was also closed in February 2011 to investigate a cylindrical object about five inches in diameter that was observed sticking out of the sand in waters off the beach’s south end.
Beach-storming exercises were among the activities conducted at Hapuna during the war.
Despite sweeps of the area in the 1940s and 1950s, numerous pieces of ordnance keep appearing at Hapuna, including entire cases of mortars and other shells apparently dumped overboard from landing craft.
Authorities believe they may become dislodged from their resting places by storms and brought toward shore by currents.
Searches for ordnance offshore in 1995 resulted in the discovery of 29 pieces. Two years later, 51 additional items were found including artillery shells, rockets and mortars.