Boulder death
recalls 1965 incident

37 years ago, a 2-ton boulder
fell down Tantalus hills,
killing 2 Manoa residents

Falling rocks and boulders are common
When will the next boulder tumble down?
Previous boulder incidents

By Pat Omandam

A tumbling boulder crashing through a Nuuanu home and killing 26-year-old Dara Rei Onishi yesterday brought tragic flashbacks for Arthur Park of another runaway boulder 37 years ago.

"It was kind of like deja vu," said Park, after hearing that a 6-ton boulder tumbled down a hillside and ripped through Onishi's bedroom, killing her as she slept.

"The first thing I did was flash back to what had happened to my uncle and aunt," Park said.

On Sept. 21, 1965, a 2-ton boulder fell down Tantalus hills and crushed Harry Y. and Konimi P. Cho to death in the living room of their Manoa cottage.

According to Star-Bulletin reports, the Chos lived in an employee's cottage at the Salvation Army's Waioli Tea Room at 2950 Manoa Road. Konimi Cho was a dietitian at the tea room, while Harry Cho was a clerk at the Honolulu Post Office.

The Chos were killed instantly when the boulder burst through the sliding doors of a back patio. The huge rock rolled through the small living room, crushing the couple in its path.

The boulder then smashed out the front window wall, bounced through the front yard and toppled a wooden fence before coming to a stop. It barely missed a lava-stone chapel with floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows.

Park, in his mid-20s at the time, recalled he was among the first people to arrive at the scene — before medical personnel or police arrived.

"I witnessed the damage and saw my uncle and aunt in the living room of their apartment. If they had stayed in their bedroom, they would have been fine," he said.

Park said he often used that living room to study when he was an undergraduate at the University of Hawaii. He said their deaths devastated the closely knit extended family.

"I really feel for the (Onishi) family, and I can understand how they're feeling. To have somebody so close to be taken so suddenly and so tragically — it's difficult to comprehend and put into words," he said.

Park said he now lives in the middle of Manoa Valley because he cannot live in homes that are right next to the mountain.

"No way," he said.

Park, an attorney, represents family members of five of the eight people who died in the Mother's Day rockslide at Sacred Falls Park in 1999. The families are seeking damages from the state, saying the state failed to adequately warn park-goers of the rockfall dangers or take proper steps to reduce the risk of injury or death.

The case is awaiting a decision on liability issues from state Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario.

A court hearing on damages from the accident is set for next year, Park said.

"I have children myself, and you always think your children are going to outlive you, so it's always a tragedy, and a double tragedy when there's a child involved," Park said of Onishi's death.

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