East Hawaii News

Treatment of Ordnance – Not Ordinances – Earns Officers Honors

August 30, 2012, 5:09 PM HST
* Updated August 30, 9:58 PM
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When it came to Super Bowl Sunday this past February, three members of the Hawaii Police Department were “giants” of their own.

No, they didn’t have any connection to the champion New York Giants, but they did do a major favor for Big Island football fans.

On Feb. 4, the night before football’s biggest game, an old grenade was discovered on the grounds of Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s main power plant in Hilo.

According to Police Chief Harry Kubojiri, safety regulations prohibited employees of HELCO or the county Department of Public Works from approaching the unexploded ordnance. When HELCO officials were told that military ordnance removal personnel would not arrive for two days, they decided they would need to shut down the plant to protect its workers.

The loss of HELCO’s Hill plant, which produces 35 megawatts, or roughly 12% of the Big Island’s firm power supply, could have resulted in island-wide rolling blackouts, affecting public health and safety and disrupting Super Bowl festivities, Kubojiri said.

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To head off that possibility, Assistant Chief Marshall Kanehailua, Lt. Thomas Shopay and Officer Paul Kim, all members of the department’s Special Response Team, volunteered to place a barricade around the grenade until the military team could arrive.

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“Using sandbags to construct a barrier around the grenade, the three men worked through the night to contain the threat to the power plant,” Kubojiri said in a statement issued today.

Kanehailua manned a forklift while Shopay and Kim helped guide the sandbags into place.

Today, in a ceremony in Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office, each member of the trio received a Silver Medal of Valor for his efforts.

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“I know they are humble, and the last thing they wanted was recognition for this,” the chief said during the ceremony. “I’m sure if you ask them, they’ll say they were just doing their job. I’m very proud of the work they did. To expose themselves when they didn’t have to for the good of the entire community is above and beyond.”

Mayor Billy Kenoi told the awardees, “You guys went in, and what you guys did was nothing short of unbelievable. On behalf of the people of the County of Hawaiʻi, thank you for what you do every day, and a special mahalo for what you did on that day.”

The Big Island has large areas that still contain unexploded military ordnance. Most are on the western side, where extensive military training was held during World War II, but some ordnance has been found in the Schultz Siding section of Hilo where the HELCO plant is located.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has identified 135,000 acres used for training during and after World War II that is outside the Pohakuloa Training Area. Much of it was in the former Waikoloa Maneuver Area which stretches from Waimea to the town of Waikoloa.

At least four people have been killed by the lethal leftovers, including two cowboys killed while working on fences on Parker Ranch in the 1950s.

Hapuna Beach has been closed periodically over the years while crews clean up ordnance – including whole boxes of anti-aircraft shells – apparently dumped off landing craft by soldiers practicing beach stormings.

In 2000, more than a hundred 3.5-inch anti-aircraft rounds were found in water 50 feet deep in the vicinity of Hilo’s breakwater. Some were detonated in place but others likely remain as the removal effort by US Navy divers ran out of funding.

In 2002, children working in a garden at Waimea Middle School unearthed a live grenade which they handled before turning it over to a teacher. An unexploded ordnance team found three more grenades in the garden area.

 

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