Lahaina students and parents had their belongings stolen last week while on a trip to Oahu. The group included, from front left, Nikki-Lee Asio, Sierra Olivera, Kaui Harbottle and Tori Ayudon; and in second row, Raeleen Asio, left, Ikaika Camanse, Steven Chen and Tommay Harbottle.

Thieves break into
van, steal belongings
of Maui students

Some Lahaina school students came to Oahu last week to learn about how the state Legislature works, but the trip turned into a hard lesson about life in the big city.

The student council group from Princess Nahi'ena'ena Elementary School on Maui discovered one of their rental vans broken into at a Pearlridge Center parking lot on April 1, right before they were supposed to go to Honolulu Airport and catch their flight back home.

Thieves took nine pieces of luggage along with six birthday presents that 8-year-old Kaui Harbottle received from her older sister, who lives on Oahu.

"I was mad ... and sad," Kaui said while crying during a phone interview yesterday from Maui. "Somebody broke the lock on the rental car and stole all my birthday presents.

"Why do they do it to little children?"

The group of 24 children between third and fifth grades and 12 adults had been at Pearlridge between 1:30 and 4 p.m. Friday when they discovered their van had been broken into while it was parked on the third floor of the Macy's parking lot.

Kaui's mother, a school staff member and chaperone during the trip, said at first she did not believe one of the children when she said all their belongings were gone from their van.

"My mommy told me to look in the back and I found that there was nothing," said 9-year-old Nikki-Lee Asio.

"I said, 'That's not funny,' because it was April Fool's Day," said Tommay Harbottle, a Parent Community Network coordinator for the school. "But then it took one look at the child to realize it was not a joke.

"They were all crying and hugging in the parking lot, and afterward, none of the children wanted to get to the airport in the van that was broken.

"It was just such a sad scene."

Harbottle said many of the children lost their belongings and gifts they had bought during the trip, including cell phones and cameras with pictures of their visits to the state Capitol, Bishop Museum and Pearl Harbor. She said thieves left nothing behind and even took the Dec. 7, 1941, memorial day newspapers they bought from the Arizona Memorial gift shop.

"We were supposed to do a book report on it," she said. "The students are still asking, 'Are we going to get our things back?'

"I can't give them an answer."

The story took a strange turn later that April Fool's Day at 7:30 p.m., when four of the nine pieces of luggage stolen turned up next to a trash container outside the monastery at Damien High School along Kohou Street. Damien President Brother Greg O'Donnell said he was coming home from the airport when he got out of the car and saw the luggage there.

"They weren't thrown there or anything ... nicely placed with everything intact, from what I could tell," O'Donnell said. "Most of them were children's bags. ... I think some thieves were probably disappointed."

O'Donnell said that on Friday, Damien High School was still on spring break and while no one noticed the bags being dropped off, anyone could have walked on the property because the gate to the monastery was open.

Police are asking for the public's help in locating the suspect or suspects involved in the break-in at Pearlridge or the dropping-off of the luggage on Kohou Street. The rental van involved was described only as a greenish in color.

"At the present time, all of the surveillance videos of the parking lot have been reviewed and we have no leads," said CrimeStoppers Detective Letha DeCaires. "We're hoping to appeal to anyone with a conscience who might know something out there.

"Sometimes, when suspects realize they've stolen from children, especially birthday presents still in the wrapping paper, they might be willing to return their belongings, no questions asked."

Calls about the case may be made to CrimeStoppers at 955-8300 or by dialing *CRIME on a cellular phone.

In the meantime, Nahi'ena'ena students are being asked to concentrate on what they still have, and not what they have lost.

"The good time we had, the knowledge we gained from the trip, those things they cannot take away from us," Harbottle said.

Honolulu Police Department Crimestoppers

E-mail to City Desk


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