State briefs 2/12
Obama moves to elevate status of Army in Pacific
HONOLULU — The United States is elevating the status of the general who leads soldiers in the Pacific.
U.S. Army Pacific has been led by a three-star general for many years.
The Pentagon said Monday President Barack Obama is nominating Third Army commander Lt. Gen. Vincent Brooks to become the new Army Pacific commander. Obama is also nominating Brooks for promotion to four stars.
Putting a four-star general in charge of U.S. soldiers in the Pacific puts the Army on par with the Navy and Air Force in the region. Both services are currently led by four-star commanders in the Pacific.
Brooks currently leads U.S. soldiers in the U.S. Central Command area.
Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski is the current U.S. Army Pacific commander. He plans to retire after 34 years of service.
Maui’s public library marks 50th anniversary
WAILUKU, Maui — Kahului’s public library is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
The Maui News says patrons and employees celebrated the anniversary with a traditional Hawaiian blessing on Saturday. There also was Taiko drumming and martial arts demonstrations, Hawaiian music by slack key guitarist Jeff Peterson, face painting and a storytelling variety show.
Kahului Library Manager Sana Daliva says Kahului Public Library is Maui’s little pride and joy.
Daliva says the library may be 50 years old, but is not stuck in the past. It has 20 public-access computers and free Wi-Fi access during library hours.
Oxygen tanks blamed for house explosion
HONOLULU — Oxygen tanks are being blamed for a house explosion over the weekend.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser says when the tanks exploded Sunday morning it caused an inferno in a single-story house in the Wahiawa neighborhood.
The oxygen tanks were being stored for medical purposes.
No neighbors or firefighters were injured by the fire or subsequent explosions. Officials say a father and a son who lived in the house were not home at the time.
Neighbors reported hearing a dozen loud explosions.
Honolulu Fire Capt. Gary Lum says the fire appeared to have started in the garage.
Tripler to open renovated neonatal care center
HONOLULU — Tripler Army Medical Center is opening a new neonatal intensive care unit this week.
Thursday’s ceremony is coming after nearly two years of renovations at the Hawaii military hospital.
The medical center says the unit has state-of-the-art technology to keep babies in a womb-like environment.
The walls, floors and ceilings have soundproof material to that ensure sound levels are at neonatal standards.
The center says the rooms provide an optimal environment for babies’ hearing, growth and overall development.
The unit is the first of its kind on Oahu. It’s also the first of its kind for a Department of Defense facility.
Surfer dies amid dangerously high waves off Kauai
LIHUE, Kauai — Police say a 64-year-old surfer has died amid dangerously high surf on Kauai.
Kauai police said in a statement Sunday that Richard Proczka of Kilauea drowned in Hanelei Bay. They say he’s the island’s fifth ocean drowning of 2013.
On Saturday at about 5:45 p.m., Proczka’s friends noticed his surfboard had drifted to shore but he was nowhere in sight. They called for help after searching for him for about 30 minutes.
A helicopter spotted Proczka about 200 yards offshore, and lifeguards on jet skis pulled him to shore, where he was pronounced dead.
Police emphasized that several serious warnings were issued for the north and west facing shores of Kauai.
The National Weather service said the swells that peaked Sunday would bring waves as high as 25 feet.