In Brief | Big Island & State | 3-8-14


Police seek help locating stolen pickup

Hawaii Island police are asking for the public’s help locating a stolen pickup truck.

Sometime between Dec. 28 and 29, a lowered primer-black 1986 Toyota pickup truck was taken from Honokaa, according to the Hawaii Police Department. The truck’s license plate is HJV353. It may be in the Hilo area.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the truck or the identity of the person operating it is asked to call Officer John Kalauli at 775-7533 or the 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 $1,000. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Alleged drunken boating incident investigated

A Kona man was arrested early Thursday for boating under the influence, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

At 10:13 p.m. Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard notified police that a commercial dive boat, Sea Wolf, and its operator had been reported missing.

The Coast Guard had received a report at 9:18 p.m. from the vessel’s owner, Iruka Hawaii, which claimed the captain was last seen dropping off the boat’s customers at a popular manta ray dive spot about 30 yards offshore Keauhou, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Melissa McKenzie of the Coast Guard District 14 Hawaii.

Another tour company picked up the boat’s customers. The Sea Wolf and its operator were later found drifting offshore and were towed to Honokohau Harbor, police said.

McKenzie said the Ipo Kai was the Good Samaritan vessel that towed in the Sea Wolf. She did not know the name of the vessel that rescued the abandoned customers. She also added no injuries were reported.

Shortly after midnight Thursday, police arrested the operator of Sea Wolf, a 30-year-old Kailua-Kona man, on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant. He was released at 1:30 a.m. pending further investigation. West Hawaii Today is not identifying the man because he has not been charged with a crime as of press time.

Besides the police department, McKenzie said the Coast Guard is also investigating the incident. Operating a boat while under the influence is dangerous and a federal offense, she said. If a boat operator has a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater, he can be subjected to penalties, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, a one-year imprisonment, or both. He could also have his boating and motor vehicle driving privileges terminated.

In a written statement sent to West Hawaii Today, Iruka Hawaii said it sincerely regrets the recent incident and is taking it “very seriously.”

“We employ knowledgeable and trustworthy staff, and we settle for nothing less when it comes to the safety of our guests. It is our passion to inspire the lives of our passengers without ever having to compromise anyone’s well-being,” the company stated. “As soon as we heard the vessel was missing, we immediately contacted the Coast Guard, Police, and Fire Department. The local authorities have an ongoing investigation of the incident. We are also conducting our own investigation as well. We are currently suspending our tours in Kona until we can wholeheartedly know that such an occurrence will not happen again. We are doing a complete review of our procedures, policies, and protocols.”

Iruka Hawaii also thanked the companies and boat captains who assisted in the search, especially Capt. Pononui Lealao of Kona Ocean Adventures who found the Sea Wolf. “We are faithfully grateful to have competent and caring friends in a strong, benevolent community of professionals,” the company stated.

UH-Hilo official cleared of wrongdoing

A yearlong investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office has cleared University of Hawaii Associate Vice President for Capital Improvements Brian Minaai of all wrongdoing involving the construction of UH-Hilo’s new student dormitory.

Minaai was publicly accused by designer Dennis Mitsunaga of Mitsunaga & Associates Inc. of mismanaging the construction of UH-Hilo’s Hale Alahonua, running up the costs on the project, and favoring friends with lucrative contracts. Mitsunaga’s allegations prompted the UH Board of Regents to request that the attorney general look into the complaints.

Minaai has returned to overseeing construction projects across the state after being placed on paid leave last year, according to a statement issued this week by the UH System Office of Communications. He returned to work at UH this summer, but his duties were limited so as to prevent the possibility or appearance of interference with the ongoing investigation.

In a report published online at go.hawaii.edu/G7, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that “there is no evidence of intent to suggest any criminal behavior by Minaai or other parties involved in this Project, nor is there evidence that any of the actions were for a malicious or improper purpose to suggest any civil or administrative wrongdoing.”

However, the report did note that “the management of the Project by the University of Hawaii and by OCI (Office of Capital Improvements) in particular, was deficient in several key respects,” according to the report. “Notwithstanding the allegations of Mitsunaga, the Project was completed and opened on time for occupancy for the 2013-2014 school year, per the construction schedule. It is the Department’s further understanding that this Project is anticipated to be over budget by approximately $300,000. It is unclear as to how this budget shortfall will be addressed.”

Missing woman’s case is homicide, police say

WAILUKU, Maui — Maui police have reclassified a missing persons case involving a pregnant woman as a homicide.

Maui police said in a statement Friday their investigation into Carly Scott’s case is active and ongoing. Police said they won’t release further information at this time.

Scott was reported missing Feb. 10 by her mother. The 27-year-old was last seen at her sister’s home in Haiku at 8 p.m. Feb. 9.

She was five months pregnant when she disappeared.

Police have interviewed people who last had contact with Scott before she vanished, including her ex-boyfriend.

Jurors return partial verdict in meth ring

HONOLULU — Jurors have convicted a California man in a Hawaii meth ring involving hundreds of pounds of meth trafficked to Hawaii, but acquitted two of his co-defendants.

Jurors in federal court returned a partial verdict Friday after deliberating about two weeks. They were unable to reach a verdict for one count against a fourth defendant.

Sentencing for Walter Dominguez, of Carson, Calif., is scheduled for September. He faces life in prison.

Six men originally went on trial, but two of them were later acquitted because the judge ruled there was a lack of evidence.

The case is described as the biggest crystal meth trafficking case tried in Hawaii. But it ran into prosecutorial problems, including the judge ruling that prosecutors were “sloppy” and “tardy” in providing discovery materials to the defense.

Lihue Airport runway to be extended

LIHUE, Kauai — A Lihue Airport runway needs to be extended to comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules.

One of the Kauai airport’s two runways ends just a few hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean, with no room for a necessary buffer, the Garden Island reported Friday.

“We’re going to go ahead and extend the runway on the opposite side to make sure we have the clearance,” state Department of Transportation Deputy Director Ford Fuchigami said.

The FAA requires a 1,000-foot surface for a “runway safety area” surrounding the runway to reduce damage to planes in the event of an “undershoot, overshoot or excursion from the runway.” According to a 2009 federal Department of Transportation report, Congress mandated in 2005 that all commercial airports enhance passenger safety by improving runway safety areas by 2015. The FAA is required to report annually on its progress.

The state transportation department “intends to eventually extend the southwest end of Runway 3-21 (parallel to terminal) by 855 feet, while still providing a standard 1,000-foot runway safety area for the northeast end of the runway,” Justin Fujioka, spokesman for the governor’s office, wrote in an email. The southwest shifting will be toward the Kauai Lagoons Golf Club.

Earlier this week, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced the release of nearly $100 million for construction or capital-improvement projects at airports statewide. The Lihue Airport received $410,000 for an environmental review related to the reconfiguration.

The project’s planning phase is estimated to be completed in November 2016, Fujioka said.

By local and wire sources