Bomb explodes
on Kahoolawe

Three civilian workers are injured
during a clearing project

Three civilian workers were injured yesterday when a 500-pound bomb they were crushing on Kahoolawe exploded.

It was the first accident involving explosives since the Navy began cleaning up the target island six years ago in what it has described as its largest ordnance-clearance project.

About 9:20 a.m. yesterday, three Parsons-UXB Joint Venture civilian workers were cutting and crushing what they believed was an inert bomb to convert it into scrap metal when it exploded, said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman.

"All three men were taken to Maui Memorial Hospital for treatment," Davis said. He declined to identify the workers.

They were evaluated and released. One of the workers was treated for a bruised shoulder.

All three men reported "ringing in their ears," Davis said.

Davis said the contractor's procedure was to first determine whether an ordnance had to be exploded where it was found or whether it was safe enough to be moved, then cut and crushed by a device called a "shear arm."

"Then all the pieces are run through a thermal processing unit to burn off any residue," Davis said.

The explosion occurred while the three men were using the "shear arm" to cut and crush the practice bomb, Davis said.

In November the Navy turned control of the 11-mile-long island back to the state after spending more than $460 million on the cleanup effort. It is in the process of removing whatever it brought there.

Davis said the Navy hopes to wrap up its operations on Kahoolawe in April.

Although yesterday's accident was the first involving explosives in the cleanup operation, there was a fatal accident on the island last year. Civilian pilot Gary Freeman, 55, was killed on May 22 when a cable used to haul equipment hit the rotor of the helicopter he was flying. The helicopter crashed at the 2,000-foot level on the west side of the island.

Kahoolawe, six miles southwest of Maui, was used by the Navy as a target and training area from 1941 until 1990, when then-President George Bush ordered a halt to the exercises after years of protests and lawsuits by native Hawaiian groups. Congress authorized the cleanup in 1993.

Parsons-UXB began the cleanup in July 1998. As of Oct. 31 it reported that 20,053 acres of the island's 28,788 acres have been cleared of unexploded ordnance. Civilian workers and ordnance specialists used metal detectors and magnetic devices to pick up any scrap metal -- ordnance, shrapnel and target vehicles -- found on the surface of the island.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --