Friends defend
airport arsonist

A Maui man charged with
torching his SUV is said to
have been depressed recently


Wednesday, March 3, 2003

>> The Republican newspaper is based in Springfield, Mass. A story on Page A6 yesterday incorrectly said the paper was based in Monson, Mass.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

Paul Blatchley: The Haiku man has been charged with attempted murder for Sunday's fire

Friends and acquaintances of a man who drove a sport utility vehicle into Kahului Airport and set the vehicle on fire Sunday said he was despondent about life and needed help.

Paul Blatchley, 52, of Haiku, was arrested and charged yesterday with first-degree attempted murder and first-degree criminal property damage after he drove his roommate's Dodge Durango over the curb and to the front of the United Airlines ticket counter at the airport and then set it on fire from the inside of the vehicle. He was being held on Maui in lieu of $220,000 bail.

FBI officials are also considering federal charges of causing violence at an international airport and maliciously damaging or destroying property leased by the U.S. government. As of yesterday afternoon, federal charges had not been filed. Blatchley was expected to be transported to Honolulu today.

Officials were forced to close the airport for much of Sunday, stranding passengers and adding to waiting lists for flights out of Maui yesterday.

Those who knew Blatchley said he was kind though troubled soul, a man who worked as a private caregiver and who suffered bouts of depression. According to airport security reports, Blatchley told those who were pulling him out of the burning vehicle to "leave me alone, I want to die."

"For one thing, he's not a terrorist," Blatchley's roommate and longtime friend, Francis Lobik, told Honolulu television station KITV yesterday. "He hasn't got a mean streak in his bones. He would never do anything like this intentionally. He's been under a lot of stress and a lot of depression lately."

Blatchley and Lobik have lived together at 470 Ulumalu Road since last September. A man identified only as Lobik's landlord said he was coming back from Oahu on Sunday when he saw the charred remains of the SUV in the ticket lobby.

Only later did he learn his tenant, Blatchley, had taken Lobik's vehicle and set it on fire at the airport.

"He's the gentlest guy in the world," said the landlord, who did not want to reveal his name. "I know he's been depressed because last week he tried to save someone from drowning at Little Beach in Makena but wasn't able to.

"That's the kind of guy he is; he's a good soul."

Robert Lobik, of Massachusetts, a cousin of Francis Lobik, said the two lived together on the former 1,100-acre dairy farm once owned by his and Francis' grandfather. He said the pair moved to Hawaii about eight months ago after Francis' cousin sold off most of the dairy land. They took with them their two dogs and the SUV that was set aflame over the weekend.

"He was real strange," Robert Lobik said of Blatchley, who he alleged was schizophrenic. "The only thing I can think is he was not on his medication."

Blatchley and Francis Lobik co-owned a 3,000-square-foot business called Devonshire Meadows Botanical Gardens in Massachusetts that they started in 1993 and sold in 2001 to move to "tropical climates," according to the Republican newspaper of Monson, Mass.

The state placed new barriers at Honolulu Airport yesterday as a precaution after Sunday's incident at Maui's Kahului Airport.

Passengers stuck at Kahului Airport yesterday were not happy. Security officials said that by midmorning there were roughly 1,000 people standing by for outbound flights from Maui that were supposed to have left on Sunday.

"Personally, I think the guy that did this should get the book thrown at him," said Derrick Alexander, of Makawao, who along with his wife was supposed to go on a Norwegian Star cruise to Fanning Island and back for their 11th anniversary.

"If we can't make this, we forfeit the trip," said his wife, Lori.

Many Norwegian Star cruise line passengers ended up missing their connecting flight to Oahu on Sunday and had one last chance to catch up with the cruise in Hilo yesterday.

"If we can't make it to the ship by noon, then that's it," said Malcom Barkworth, of Ontario, Canada. "It's gangplank up and aloha.

"The Norwegian Star won't even give us a refund."

Department of Transportation officials said they closed Kahului Airport for hours on Sunday because they needed to fly in bomb-sniffing dogs from Honolulu to make sure that there were no explosive devices in the charred remains of the SUV. Because of that, almost everyone who was supposed to have left on Sunday tried to leave yesterday, when most, if not all, flights were booked solid.

"It's going to take all day to get back to normal because of the backlog of passengers," state transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said yesterday. "Fortunately, no one was injured."

Damage to the airport was of less than $10,000, said Ishikawa. The Transportation Department also installed concrete trash receptacles at the terminal's curbside near the ticket lobby to deter copycats. Ishikawa also said the state was considering hiring an engineer to devise some type of protective barrier outside Kahului Airport's baggage area.

In Honolulu, officials installed concrete planters and large, water-filled barriers near the interisland terminal.

"It's sad it had to come to this," Ishikawa said. "One guy pretty much ruined it for everyone."


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