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Search for Missing Hilo Boy Enters Third Day

December 23, 2019, 11:54 AM HST
* Updated December 23, 12:07 PM
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Benny Rapoza (PC: Hawai’i County Police Department)

Hawai‘i County personnel continue to search for an autistic child who’s been missing for nearly three days.

Benny Rapoza was last seen in the Keaukaha area near the 2100 block of Kalanianaole Avenue and Koloa Street at approximately 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 20. Police say the boy is in need of immediate care.

Matthias Kusch, HFD Batallion Chief in East Hawai‘i, said the fire department began its search for Rapoza late Saturday afternoon, but their efforts were hampered by poor weather conditions that persisted through the weekend.

“Today marks the first time the surf and seas have calmed down enough to put divers in the water,” Kusch said Monday morning. “We’ve already had three rounds of divers in the water at the possible entry area … where he’s been seen in the past.”

Robert Wagner, Hawai‘i Police Department Assistant Chief, said there was a strong institutional and community turnout over the weekend, as personnel from County police and fire, the DLNR and the National Parks Service were joined in the search by scores of volunteers.

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Wagner said he didn’t have exact numbers of how many were searching Sunday but that the total had rolled back some on Monday — with mostly police, fire and some volunteers left looking for the missing child.

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“It was a big operation from the start,” Wagner said. “They had a command post set up. We sent over the Kona CID Captain and four Kona CID detectives to help. Today we have police down there, and (the) fire department is flying the chopper as well. A search (has been) conducted of the area and of the ocean, as well as making contact with nearby residences.”

“The bad weather did not help at all, along with rough surf,” Wagner continued.

Kusch said the Coast Guard also helped the first day, dropping three drift buoys that mimic someone in the water. The buoys send signals for prolonged periods of time as currents carry them into shore or out to sea. HFD continues to track the buoys’ progress to aid its helicopter search.

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County personnel generally searches for missing persons for three days before calling off a rescue mission. Monday marks day three in the search for Rapoza.

“As far as how much longer HPD will be searching, we should be putting something out along with the Fire Department when that happens,” Wagner said.

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