Firefighters found the body of a 55-year-old male yesterday who was apparently looking for antique bottles Friday night in a trench near the old sugar mill in Waipahu.

Bottle collector
dies in cave-in

The body was found under 5 to 6 feet
of dirt at a Waipahu construction site

By Leila Fujimori

Fire rescue and construction workers unearthed yesterday the body of a 55-year-old homeless man, who was buried alive while digging for collectible bottles Friday night at a Waipahu construction site.

"A life for just a few bottles," said Waipahu resident Scott Vidinha. "What a shame."

Vidinha, who watched the recovery efforts, said he often sees bottle hunters tunneling in the late afternoon or early evening.

The body was found under about five to six feet of dirt after more than four hours of digging by hand and with a backhoe, said Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Richard Soo.

The man had been hunting for bottles with a friend in a trench at a Waipahu Street construction site across from the Waipahu Plantation Village just Ewa of the old sugar mill. The man had tunneled a cave on the side of the trench to search for more bottles, but the cave collapsed, Soo said.

Another bottle hunter heard the cave-in sometime around 7 p.m. Friday and pulled free the victim's friend, whose leg was stuck in the ground, and who was unhurt. He then spent about 20 minutes trying to dig the other man free, according to police.

Police received an anonymous call at about 8:23 p.m. Friday. But when officers arrived at the large construction site, there was nobody there.

"We didn't have anybody to give directions," said Officer Joe Self of the Honolulu Police Department's Missing Persons Detail.

Police returned to the site at 9:30 a.m. yesterday where they met the man who had helped the victim's friend. The man showed them where the victim was buried. Police informed the Fire Department, and rescue crews arrived at 10:41 a.m.

About 30 firefighters worked in teams, carefully removing the soil with shovels and buckets. They recovered the man's probe, shovel, backpack and flashlight.

Finally, at about 3:15 p.m., the man's hand was spotted, Self said.

The man was found face down, Soo said.

"This is my first (missing) person digging for bottles," Self said.

The area was the site of the Waipahu sugar plantation village, Soo said, which apparently is a treasure trove for bottles.

Rare bottles in mint condition may be worth hundreds and up to a couple thousand dollars, according to one bottle collector.

The body was taken to the city morgue, where a medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

Amfac, the property owner, had been digging test pits to check for stability at the site where large warehouses are being built, Soo said.

The company's security officers make checks for trespassers at the site, Self said.

He emphasized the danger of bottle hunting because of the instability of the soil.

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --