Updated 

In brief | Big Island & State | 2-28-14


Police looking for missing 72-year-old woman

Big Island police are searching for a 72-year-old woman who was reported missing.

Carol Westbrook, who has no permanent address, was last heard from by her family during the first week of February, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

She is described as Caucasian, 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighing 120 pounds with gray or graying hair. She may be in Hilo or Puna and she may be operating a white Subaru Legacy with front-end damage.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts should call the police department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311. Those who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.

Hilo man charged for driving SUV into man

A Hilo man has been charged with nine offenses after he allegedly banged into another man twice with a sport utility vehicle, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

Feb. 2, a 49-year-old Hilo man was hit by an SUV driven by Clifford P. Marler, 52, who has no permanent address, according to the police department. The incident happened after a discussion between Marler and the victim in the parking lot of a commercial and residential complex on Hualani Street.

Police said the victim suffered serious and substantial bodily injury and was transferred to The Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu, where he remained until Feb. 25.

Police located Marler Tuesday and arrested and charged him on two bench warrants for contempt of court. His bail for the contempt charges was set at $1,750.

During his arrest, he was found to be in possession of a syringe loaded with a substance believed to be heroin. He was held at the Hilo police cellblock while Area I Criminal Investigations Section detectives continued the investigation.

Wednesday, Marler was charged with unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangering, leaving the scene of an accident involving substantial bodily injury, failure to render aid, promoting a dangerous drug and possessing drug paraphernalia. His bail for those offenses was set at $76,000, police said.

He is being held at Hawaii Community Correctional Center pending an initial court appearance scheduled for Thursday.

Police probe robbery at Carlsmith Beach Park

Big Island police are investigating a robbery at a public beach earlier this month.

At 11:33 a.m. Feb. 14, South Hilo patrol officers responded to a report of a robbery two hours earlier in the parking lot of Carlsmith Beach Park in Keaukaha. A 58-year-old Hilo man was reportedly loading his car after a swim, when a young man approached from behind and asked for help. When the victim turned around, the suspect punched him, grabbed his wallet and ran away. He may have gotten into a small white sedan heading toward Hilo, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

He was described as “a local male in his 20s, slim with a tan complexion, short black hair and unshaven.” He was wearing dark surf shorts, police said.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or anyone who knows the identity of the suspect should call the police department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311. Those who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Hawaii Judiciary warns of email scam

The Hawaii State Judiciary said Thursday it continues to receive reports of email scams.

Emails purporting to come from Judiciary offices or staff are being sent to individuals worldwide. The most recent email scam claims to be from a bailiff and instructs the individual to vacate his or her premises and to click on a link for more information. When a recipient clicked on the link, it reportedly crashed her computer.

The Judiciary advises the public not to click on links or respond to these types of email scams. In general, the public will not be contacted by the Hawaii State Judiciary for official business by email and the Judiciary does not summon people to court electronically.

Those who have received suspicious emails are asked to contact the Judiciary Public Affairs Office at pao@courts.hawaii.gov or call 539-4909.

The Judiciary has also dedicated a section of its website to the reported scams at courts.state.hi.us/general_information/scam_alerts.html.

Search underway for missing mariner

The U.S. Coast Guard is coordinating the search for a mariner in distress aboard a 24-foot sailboat located approximately 944 miles northeast of the Hawaiian Islands.

At 8:47 a.m., watchstanders at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu received notification from a concerned friend that the vessel’s owner, Rimas Meleshyus, transmitted a text via satellite stating, “I lost my life raft, in danger now,” according to the U.S. Coast Guard, Fourteenth District in Honolulu.

Meleshyus departed Hilo on Feb. 9 on a solo voyage to San Francisco aboard his vessel Pier Pressure, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Attempts have been made to establish communication with Meleshyus via cellphone, computer and satellite device, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

At 10:32 a.m., an HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu was diverted from a training mission and sent to the vessel’s last known position. Cutter Kukui, a 225-foot buoy tender ported in Honolulu, was also diverted to assist in the search.

U.S. Coast Guard watchstanders have identified two vessels in the area. The Liberia-flagged tanker ship Athens Star and Bahama-flagged carrier ship Lapis Arrow have diverted to assist.

The Coast Guard also requested, through the Federal Aviation Administration, that aircraft passing through the area remain alert for any signs of distress.

Weather conditions at the last known position of the Pier Pressure are gale force winds and seas of 20 feet.

New HI-SEAS crew picked

The University of Hawaii at Manoa has selected the crew for the second mission of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation program. The next extended simulation of Mars exploration, at a site on Mauna Loa, begins March 28.

“The upcoming mission is focused on the social, interpersonal and cognitive factors that affect team performance over time,” said Kim Binsted, associate professor at UH-Manoa and principal investigator for the next three HI-SEAS missions planned for 2014 and 2015. “Hawaii provides a unique setting to simulate the challenging conditions for human exploration to Mars. We have selected a strong crew for our next four-month study.”

HI-SEAS crew members were required to have “astronaut-like characteristics,” including the ability to pass a Class 2 flight physical examination and undergraduate training as a scientist or engineer. The youngest crew member is 26; the oldest is 60 years old. Like the astronaut mission specialists they represent, each participant is expected to bring a significant research project or other scholarly work of his or her own to complete while inside the space analog habitat.

The six crew members and the alternate member are Ross Lockwood, a doctoral candidate in condensed matter physics at the University of Alberta, from Winfield, B.C., Canada; Casey Stedman, a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer from Washington; Ronald Williams, director of the Neuropsychology Department at Fort Wayne Neurological Center, Ind.; Tiffany Swarmer, research assistant studying human factors and performance for long-duration space missions at the University of North Dakota’s Human Spaceflight Laboratory; Lucie Poulet, a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Space Systems at the German Aerospace Center, from the Lorraine region of France; Anne Caraccio, a NASA researcher developing a method of turning waste from space missions into usable gases for fuel/propulsion, environmental control, and life support systems from Bellmore, N.Y.; and reserve crew member James Sakai, a mechanical engineer and U.S. Army Reserve captain from Rupert, Idaho.

Hawaii visitor spending drops for 5th month

HONOLULU — Tourism officials say travelers to Hawaii spent nearly 5 percent less last month than the same period a year earlier. The decline marks the fifth straight month of lower visitor spending.

Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO Mike McCartney said in a statement Thursday the tourism economy is starting to plateau after two years of record-breaking growth.

He said fluctuating exchange rates, growing competition and the increasing cost of a Hawaiian vacation all contributed to the spending drop. He said the trend should continue for the first half of the year.

The agency says fewer visitors came to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland. More travelers from Japan arrived, but the average Japanese visitor spent about 7 percent less during their stay.

The total number of visitors to Hawaii was almost unchanged.

Coffee berry borer bill advances in House

The House Finance Committee unanimously approved House Bill 1514, introduced by Representative Nicole Lowen, D-Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Wednesday. The bill creates and funds a subsidy program in the Department of Agriculture and appropriates funds for education and outreach to farmers through the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii. The bill will now move to the House floor where it is expected to pass third reading and cross over to the Senate, House officials said Thursday.

By local and wire sources