Another deadly
boulder hovers

Residents are warned of a second
perilous boulder in Nuuanu

By Gregg K. Kakesako

About 30 Nuuanu residents have been warned that another large boulder -- like the one that killed a 26-year-old woman in her sleep nearly two weeks ago -- could tumble down on their homes.

At the request of attorney Steven Hisaka, who represents a retired Pacific Heights couple who own the land where the boulder is located, Oahu Civil Defense Agency staffers and volunteers canvassed homes yesterday on Henry Street.

The workers passed out flyers warning of another large boulder that, if dislodged, could tumble onto the people and homes below.

On Aug. 9, a five-ton boulder rolled down the hillside and crashed into 2527 A Henry St., killing Dara Onishi. The boulder crashed into a second-floor bedroom at about 2 a.m. and ripped through the floor, taking Onishi and her bed, and landed in the family room on the first floor. She was killed instantly in her sleep.

Onishi's parents, Patrick and Gail, and younger brother, Blaine, also were home sleeping. They were not injured.

Hisaka said that boulder came from the property owned by his clients, whom he did not identify.

"They were very concerned and upset over the incident," Hisaka said, and hired a geotechnical engineer and geologist to survey the area. The team spent all last week surveying the area.

On Monday, Hisaka received a preliminary report from the geologist, which said "there is another large boulder above the Onishi residence that is in a very precarious position. If it becomes dislodged, it could fall and cause damage to the houses and people below."

Hisaka described the boulder as about 3 feet tall, cubical in shape, and located between two vertical cliffs several hundred feet above Henry Street.

"It is standing up right against a wall and is about a couple of feet wide," Hisaka said today.

Hisaka said he immediately notified Oahu Civil Defense Agency, the fire department and the city's corporation counsel's office about the potential hazard after he received the report.

Doug Aton, Oahu Civil Defense administrator, said his agency spent yesterday going door-to-door along Henry Street, passing out a flyer warning the residence of the problem.

Aton believes that is the most the city can do since "the mitigation of the problem lies with the private property owner" since no government land is involved.

However, Hisaka disagrees.

"I think from a practical standpoint, this is a public safety issue and government has to take a different approach."

Hisaka likens the situation to a fire when it threatens adjoining properties. He said the fire department doesn't just extinguish the fire, but also takes steps preventing it from spreading.

However, Hisaka said his clients, who have lived on the property for more than 20 years, have been exploring ways to remedy the situation. These options range from securing the boulder with steel netting and cables to removing the massive boulder.

"But it is located in a very rugged and remote area," Hisaka, adding access is very limited and it may take a helicopter to remove the boulder.

Hisaka said there is no way to predict when the boulder may fall and what path it will take. "You can't predict when Mother Nature and when this rock is going to get dislodged and fall ... and where that boulder is going to fall."

He said surveys disclosed that the boulder that killed Onishi was deflected several times by several large trees before it hit the home at the bottom of the mountain.

Two Henry Street residents, whose homes also sit at the foot of the steep mountain, expressed no fear about the possibility of another boulder.

One woman said she received a flyer but is having her son read it first. Another woman said she was not aware of the threat until she was interviewed by the Star-Bulletin this morning.

"We have to remove (the boulder). What you think?" she asked. "Maybe only small rocks would come down," she added, hoping for the best.

Patrick Onishi, a retired planning director for Mayor Jeremy Harris, had said the family was not interested in pursuing damage from the landowners through legal means. The Onishis hired workers to remove the boulder and make repairs to their home last week.

No one could be reached at the Onishi residence for comments this morning.

Reporter Nelson Daranciang
contributed to this report.

E-mail to City Desk


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