Owner of Campbell Park business that caught fire says he's "very sorry" to workers' families
A 28-year-old man died, after yesterday's fire engulfed his workplace, Green Recycling in Campbell Industrial Park, on Thursday.
The Honolulu Medical Examiner identified him as Robert Bowers of Waianae. A second man remains in critical condition.
Charred vehicles... Black soot and oil... The strong smell of smoke still in the air... It was the scene the day after the devastating fire.
Owner Walter Chung declined to speak on camera but told KITV-4 he was sitting at a desk just a few feet away from where four of his employees were working when the fire erupted.
He and two other workers escaped serious injury, though Chung suffered burns to his left hand.
He says the workers tried to use a fire extinguisher but it failed to contain the flames, which quickly spread.
Chung says he's "very sorry" to the families for what happened, adding that Bowers was only with the company for less than 2 months.
Chung says he's owned Green Recycling for nearly two decades without any major incidents. But after this devastating fire, he plans to sell the business.
Neighboring employees watched as the sky turned black from the smoke on Thursday.
"You could hear people screaming," Tala Faamausaili-uli said.
"They were trying to get the fire out. They were yelling," Lianne Mitsui said. "It sounded like panic. It was scary. So we were like oh my god, I hope they are ok. I hope everybody was safe. It was really bad."
They say they have safety precautions for such incidents, with the flammable materials throughout the area.
"As you can see the whole Campbell is pretty much explosive, anything could have triggered," Faamausaili-uli said.
The fatal fire, Chung says, triggered his decision to close his business after two decades, citing too much risk.
A neighboring business owner says he knows of two fires that occurred there in the past -- one even caused damage to his property.
A fire department spokesman said they responded to a fire at the same location in December 2017, when power equipment ignited gasoline vapors.
It's a risk that comes with the job of being an auto recycler -- a sober reminder for those workers.