Safety board: Waikele bunker blast was preventable

Sparks from hand truck, chair rolling over powder; static from garbage bags may have caused explosion

 UPDATED 10:07 AM HST Jan 18, 2013
HONOLULU -

Five men died in a bunker explosion in Waikele on April 8, 2011, and now the government says the tragedy could have been prevented.

"This tragedy should have never come to pass and these workers should be alive today," said Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

Donaldson Enterprises, Inc. was hired by a government contractor to dispose of illegal fireworks confiscated by the federal government.

DEI employees were working in a hillside storage bunker when an explosion and fire occurred killing the five men.

A CSB report released Thursday revealed DEI altered its disposal plan by taking the fireworks apart.

Investigators say that activity allowed black powder to fall on the ground, creating a fire hazard.

"While many ignition sources are possible, we believe the ignition scenario includes a spark generated by the movement of a metal hand truck, which was used to move boxes in and out of the magazine, friction from an office chair located inside the magazine rolling over powder on the floor and static from plastic garbage bags that contained the black powder" said CSB investigator Amanda Johnson.

The CSB says there are no national, state or local regulations dictating how fireworks should be safely disposed.

That's why the board is asking the National Fire Protection Association to develop standards on the safest way to dispose fireworks.

Recommendations from the report also include tighter oversight on anyone the government contracts and a thorough background check.

The CSB approved the report and recommendations.  Now, it is up to each individual government agency receiving the recommendations to implement them.

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