Saturday, August 4, 2001

A stolen forklift was used yesterday to knock over a
utility pole at the rear of two Waipahu dealerships.
Police are trying to determine if the perpetrators also
toppled two other poles in the last month.

Robbers suspected
of toppling
power poles

Police think knocking the poles
down was intended as a cover
to rob nearby businesses

By Nelson Daranciang

Honolulu police are trying to determine whether the same people are responsible for toppling three utility poles in the last month.

Yesterday, a stolen forklift was used to knock over a utility pole at the rear of two Waipahu automobile dealerships at 94-223 Farrington Hwy. Police said they think the incident was intended to facilitate the burglary of two nearby businesses.

"Their intention was to knock out the power in the immediate area so they could enter the businesses under the cover of darkness and without concern of setting off alarms," said Robert Cravalho, Honolulu police detective.

Hawaiian Electric officials said there were two similar incidents in the past several weeks.

On Wednesday someone hot-wired a tractor from a nearby construction site to push over a utility pole on Kunia Road in Waipahu, said Fred Kobashikawa, Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman.

Two weeks ago, Kobashikawa said, the same thing happened at a construction site near Sam's Club in Pearl City.

"When people do this, they take a big risk," Kobashikawa said, noting that power lines carry 12,000 volts. "This is not household voltage. This is high current, high voltage."

Kobashikawa said the Pearl City incident caused a power failure in the immediate area. He said the Kunia Road incident did not cause a failure because there was no electricity flowing through the power line atop that utility pole.

Police have no suspects in the first two incidents.

In yesterday's incident, police are looking for a tall male wearing a black ski mask and black clothing and a short man wearing a black trench coat, both of whom fled in a white van.

Cravalho said the suspects cut the base of the utility pole about 3 a.m. yesterday then stole a forklift from Westside Fender/Body & Refinishing at 94-221 Leonui St. to push it over.

"Maybe the device they used to cut the pole wasn't effective, so they got the forklift," Cravalho said.

The pole fell into the rear parking lot of Tony Group Body Shop and Waipahu Subaru at 94-223 Farrington Hwy.

Fire investigators said when the electrical transformer on the utility pole fell, it started four fires that caused $64,000 damage to the utility pole, the Tony Group paint shop and six cars.

A short time later, Cravalho said, a witness saw one of the suspects carrying a safe out of Waipahu Cycle & Sports at 94-311 Leonui St.

Police later discovered power hand tools were taken from Countertops Etc. at 94-311-A Leonui St. They said a pickup truck was also taken from Westside Fender but left in front of Waipahu Cycle.

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