A week from Saturday marks six months since five men lost their lives in a horrific bunker explosion. A state investigation blamed employer Donaldson Enterprises for unsafe working conditions and practices. George Kelii is a pillar of courage and strength as he goes through his grandson's trophies in his Kaneohe home, but painful emotions take over when he comes across a photo of Justin Kelii.
?We can?t even mention his name around my wife, she gets teary eyed and she can't talk. The more you think about it, the worse it gets,? said Kelii.
On April 8, the 29-year-old and five other men were taking apart commercial fireworks in a bunker at Waikele Self Storage when the pyrotechnics exploded, killing all but one.
Also killed were 24-year-old Kevin Freeman of Aiea, 24-year-old Neil Sprankle of Mililani, 25-year-old Bryan Cabalce of Wahiawa and 50-year-old Robert Leahey.
The state completed its investigation into the cause of the investigation, citing employer Donaldson Enterprises 12 times for failing to ensure safe working conditions.
The citations include: 1. Failure to conduct a hazard assessment on the dangers of disassembling pyrotechnic materials which may have become more shock, heat, and friction sensitive due to unknown compounds within the pyrotechnic formulation, and uncontrolled environmental conditions within the bunker such as excessive heat and humidity. 2. Failure to use bonding, grounding, and anti-static materials to control the potential of ignition by static electricity. 3. Failure to ensure that supervisors properly reinforced the training of employees in the danger of using metal tools, work practices that may create friction, and other sources of ignition while working with pyrotechnic contents that are sensitive to heat, shock, and friction. 4. Failure to provide at least two exit routes were not available to permit prompt evacuation of employees during an emergency. 5. Failure to store flammable liquids away from exits or areas normally used for the safe egress of people. 6. Failure to separate the work involving pyrotechnic materials from other explosives within the bunker. 7. Failure to provide non-ferrous, non-sparking tools while working with explosive pyrotechnic materials. 8. Failure to control the presence of combustible materials such as empty packing materials and rubbish in an area where pyrotechnic materials were being separated and maintained. 9. Failure to prohibit spark producing devices, i.e. employees? cars, within 50 feet of the bunker entrance where pyrotechnic materials were being disassembled and maintained. 10. Failure to erect appropriate warning signs on access roads leading to the bunker where pyrotechnic materials were present and being disassembled. 11. Failure to conduct a hazard assessment to determine the appropriate personal protective equipment to be worn by employees while performing work with explosive pyrotechnic materials. 12. Failure to require employees to don appropriate personal protective equipment
The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations also proposes a fine of $415,000.
?We really didn't think that was enough citations, I thought it would be a greater fine for that for five lives. I would think that they would know better, to me a lot of people didn?t do their job,? Kelii said.
Making it even harder on the family, is the owner lives around the corner. Kelii said he does his best to avoid it.
One of Justin's unfinished projects sits covered in the family?s backyard, his grandfather gave him the car to fix up. Kelii said a day doesn't pass without reminders of Justin, whose smile once brightened their lives.