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    March 2016
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Commentary – Senator Kahele on Safety Concern of Hilo Medical Center Helipad

On behalf of our constituents within the first senatorial district of Hilo and all of Hawai‘i Island, I am writing to request Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) Board to discontinue its Agreement for Purchase of Goods and Services (APGS) with Hawai‘i Life Flight, Inc. (HLF), signed on April 10, 2013 which allows permanent parking on the helipad of Hilo Medical Center (HMC) and has presented numerous safety of flight issues for other operators in the area.


Although the agreement allows HLF to park their aircraft to one side of the helipad and the space meets the minimum requirements to do so – it has still proven, on numerous occasions, to present a safety concern.

The U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area Department of Emergency Services has reported that on two occasions within the past year, several of their Blackhawk Medevac helicopters have been prevented from landing safely during training patrols and other exercises because of HLF’s permanent occupation of the helipad. On October 29, 2015 an emergency transport helicopter arrived at the HMC helipad to find the HLF helicopter still on the helipad. As an HLF employee was securing the aircraft, the Medevac Blackhawk was in its final approach and unfortunately was forced to land with the HLF aircraft only partially secured.  The Engine Company Captain on scene reported a “near miss” incident with both aircraft being on the helipad at the same time.

Additionally, the County of Hawai‘i Fire Department which maintains two helicopters for emergency medical services has reported that on three separate incidents their Chopper 2 aeromedical helicopter has landed at the helipad with the pad being occupied by HLF.

One way to resolve this issue is to keep the helipad vacated and available at all times. This would ensure a safer overall operation.  It is our understanding that the aforementioned APGS is up for renewal on April 10, 2016 and that last fall representatives of the U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area met with HHSC’s Board of Directors and raised these safety of flight issues with them.  At that time, there was an indication that HHSC’s board did not intend to renew the agreement.

Because of these safety of flight issues which could have resulted in serious loss of life to patients, crew and bystanders on the ground – as well as loss of necessary medical equipment funded by and provided for the use of our community – we support your efforts to preserve necessary landing space at HMC to allow for a safer environment and improved access.

Thank you for your leadership in keeping the health and safety of our residents HHSC’s top priority and we look forward to working with you towards a positive solution.

Hau‘oli ka mana‘o,

Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele, Senate District 1-Hilo

Coast Guard Coordinates, Assist Search Efforts for 9 Missing Boaters on 3 Separate Cases

Coast Guard and AMVER crews rescued three boaters in the waters between Chuuk and Puluwat Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia, Wednesday.  An HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu, located three additional boater missing near Tarawa and are coordinating their rescue by a commercial vessel and the same Hercules aircraft crew has been diverted to search for an additional vessel also with three boaters overdue near Tarawa.

Coast Guard C130In the first case, three boaters, several days overdue on a voyage from Chuuk to Puluwat Atoll, in the Federated States of Micronesia are safe in Puluwat Atoll, Wednesday, following a joint international search. The missing men were on a 19-foot skiff and located by the motor vessel Shoryu.  All three men were brought aboard the Shoryu and are reportedly to be in good condition. The skiff was placed in a side tow and the Shoryu took the three men to Puluwat. A family member reported the men overdue Monday, prompting a search by the Coast Guard.  Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Guam issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast alerting mariners in the region to the situation. The watchstanders coordinated search efforts of two Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System ships: the Soma Maru and Shoryu and provided search patterns for each vessel.

In the second case near Tarawa, a Hercules aircraft crew located three boaters, missing for 8 days, just before noon, Wednesday. They dropped supplies from the plane to the boaters and the Coast Guard is working to identify a vessel in the area to relocate and rescue them. Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center in Honolulu were notified Monday, by search coordinators with the Rescue Coordination Center Nadi, Fiji, of an overdue 17-foot white and yellow skiff. The vessel reportedly had a 40 hp engine with 18 to 20 gallons of fuel on board and some fresh water. The skiff was reportedly last seen the morning of March 22 departing Teaoraereke Village, Tarawa, en route a fishing area 10 miles to the south. A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion airplane crew completed a search Saturday with no sightings. The Coast Guard provided the Hercules aircrew Tuesday. Due to the distance the crew covered to get to the search area, roughly 2,400 miles the distance from Los Angeles to New York City, they were able to search for 1 hour on scene before needing to land for crew rest and to refuel. Their search resumed Wednesday at first light.

In the third case Coast Guard watchstanders in Honolulu are coordinating with search and rescue controllers at RCC Fiji to search for an overdue 18-foot skiff with three boaters aboard reportedly left Tarawa en route Maiana on a fishing trip.  The Coast Guard C-130 aircraft that searched on the second case has been diverted to begin searching the area. The missing 19-foot skiff is three days overdue on their return from fishing near Maiana.

“We sincerely appreciate the support and coordination of all our search and rescue partners. Due to the size and scope of the Pacific we depend on them to help us respond in a timely manner in remote locations,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Dustin Welch, a search and rescue controller at Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center Honolulu. “We also recommend to all boaters to be prepared for unforeseen interruptions in their voyages by being prepared with extra supplies and communications devices.”

Mariners are reminded a properly registered electronic position indicating radio beacon can make a dramatic difference not only in being located, but in the amount of time spent at sea. EPIRBs use satellites, not line-of-site like VHF radios or cellular towers, increasing their range and reliability. They’re highly accurate and once activated provide rescuers with excellent location information for anyone in distress, significantly reducing on scene search time.

AMVER, sponsored by the Coast Guard, is a computer-based, voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities. With AMVER, rescue coordinators can identify participating ships in the area of distress and divert the best-suited ship or ships to respond.

New Tsunami Forecast Model Animation: Aleutian Islands 1946

On April 1, 1946 at 4:28 am (12:28 UTC), an 8.6 moment magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Unimak Island in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, generating a tsunami that caused the greatest damage and number of deaths in Hawaii’s history, leading to the creation of the United States’ first tsunami warning system.

tsunami warning

As is typical for dangerous tsunamis the greatest wave heights were nearest the epicenter. The waves reached as high as 42 m or about 138 ft. on Unimak Island and destroyed its lighthouse and killed the five people there. Elsewhere this tsunami caused the greatest damage and number of deaths on inhabited Pacific islands. In Hawaii the waves reached about 17 m or 55 ft. high and killed 158 people, most in the town of Hilo, while in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia the waves reached even higher to 20 m or 65 ft but killed only two people. Chile’s Easter Island also got nearly 9 m or 28 ft.while its Juan Fernandez Islands got nearly 3 m or 9 ft. high waves. Pitcairn Island also had 5 m or 16 ft. high waves, New Zealand had over 2 m or 8 ft. high waves, and Samoa had over 1 m or about 4 ft. high waves. In North America the highest waves were in California at over 2 m or over 8 ft. and killed one person there and in South America it killed one more person in Peru.

A tsunami warning system did not exist in 1946 and no one had any warning of the approaching dangerous waves. In response to this event the United States government set up its first tsunami warning operation at the Honolulu Magnetic and Seismic Observatory in 1948 to mitigate tsunami hazards in Hawaii. This facility would later be renamed the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and expand its mission to include the rest of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Today, 70 years since the Unimak Island Earthquake, PTWC will issue tsunami warnings in minutes after a major earthquake occurs and will also forecast how large any resulting tsunami will be as it is still crossing the ocean. PTWC can also create an animation of a historical tsunami with the same tool that it uses to determine tsunami hazards in real time for any tsunami today: the Real-Time Forecasting of Tsunamis (RIFT) forecast model. The RIFT model takes earthquake information as input and calculates how the waves move through the world’s oceans, predicting their speed, wavelength, and amplitude. This animation shows these values through the simulated motion of the waves and as they travel through the world’s oceans one can also see the distance between successive wave crests (wavelength) as well as their height (half-amplitude) indicated by their color. More importantly, the model also shows what happens when these tsunami waves strike land, the very information that PTWC needs to issue tsunami hazard guidance for impacted coastlines. From the beginning the animation shows all coastlines covered by colored points. These are initially a blue color like the undisturbed ocean to indicate normal sea level, but as the tsunami waves reach them they will change color to represent the height of the waves coming ashore, and often these values are higher than they were in the deeper waters offshore. The color scheme is based on PTWC’s warning criteria, with blue-to-green representing no hazard (less than 30 cm or ~1 ft.), yellow-to-orange indicating low hazard with a stay-off-the-beach recommendation (30 to 100 cm or ~1 to 3 ft.), light red-to-bright red indicating significant hazard requiring evacuation (1 to 3 m or ~3 to 10 ft.), and dark red indicating a severe hazard possibly requiring a second-tier evacuation (greater than 3 m or ~10 ft.).

Toward the end of this simulated 36 hours of activity the wave animation will transition to the “energy map” of a mathematical surface representing the maximum rise in sea-level on the open ocean caused by the tsunami, a pattern that indicates that the kinetic energy of the tsunami was not distributed evenly across the oceans but instead forms a highly directional “beam” such that the tsunami was far more severe in the middle of the “beam” of energy than on its sides. This pattern also generally correlates to the coastal impacts; note how those coastlines directly in the “beam” are hit by larger waves than those to either side of it.

The tsunami evacuation zones for Hawaii and Guam are available at http://tsunami.coast.noaa.gov.

Big Island Police Investigating Series of Crimes Involving Stolen Tractor and Trailer

Hawaiʻi Island police are investigating a series of crimes involving a stolen tractor and trailer.

At 7:17 p.m. Wednesday (March 30), South Hilo Patrol officers responded to a report of a tractor and trailer that struck two other vehicles and a house on Pilipaʻa Street in Hilo.

Responding officers observed several individuals restraining the alleged driver of the tractor and trailer as he was seen walking away from the scene. Police learned that the tractor, trailer and its contents were stolen from a business on Makaʻala Street and were observed driving through a closed gate.

Police learned from witnesses that the stolen tractor and trailer also struck a vehicle and ran another vehicle off the road on Pilipaʻa Street before striking and severing a utility pole. The tractor and trailer continued southbound on Pilipaʻa Street and then ran off the street and struck a house.

Neither of the drivers of the vehicles nor the three occupants of the house was injured.

Pilipaʻa Street between Puainako Avenue and Kahaopea Street was closed to traffic overnight due to the downed power lines. Utility crews from HELCO made temporary repairs and Pilipaʻa Street was opened to traffic Thursday morning (March 31).

The suspect, 30-year-old Solomon Aloha Kepano of Hilo was arrested on suspicion of first-degree theft, fourth-degree theft, third-degree criminal property damage, accident involving damage to a vehicle or property and two counts of first-degree reckless endangering. He remains in custody at the Hilo police cellblock while detective from the Area I Criminal Investigation Section continue the investigation

Detectives ask anyone who may have witnessed a white Freightliner and a white container trailer traveling through the industrial areas onto Kanoelehua Avenue, Puainako Avenue or Pilipaʻa Street in Hilo to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311 or contact Detective Dean Uyetake at 961-2379 dean.uyetake@hawaiicounty.gov.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers does not record calls of subscribe to caller ID and the information is kept confidential.

Hawaii Island Women’s Leadership Forum’s 2nd Annual Summit

The Hawai‘i Island Women’s Leadership Forum (HIWLF) is pleased to announce that the 2nd annual Hawai‘i Island Women’s Leadership Summit is scheduled for Friday, August 26, 2016.  This announcement comes with much anticipation due to the overwhelming success of last year’s inaugural event, which drew nearly 300 attendees.


This year’s theme is Tools for Excellence – Self, Relationships, Career and Community.  The purpose of the Summit is to strengthen women by providing real tools for real life, thereby empowering and advancing ourselves, our relationships, our careers and our community.  The Summit will include a keynote speaker, breakout presentations, lunch, vendor expo and a networking pau hana.  Breakout topics will complement the Summit theme and be presented by a wide array of Hawai‘i Island entrepreneurs, professionals, leaders and rising stars.

The Summit event date was moved from April to August based on feedback from attendees, as well as efforts to find a fiscal sponsor whose mission aligned with HIWLF.  “We are thrilled to share that Friends of the Future will serve as our fiscal sponsor,” says Farrah-Marie Gomes, Chair of HIWLF.   Since 1991, Friends of the Future has provided an organizational home to over 40 programs and community initiatives that unify, empower and strengthen individuals’ and organizations’ ability to flourish.  HIWLF is extremely grateful for this new-found partnership and shared vision.

For general HIWLF and Summit information, to include sponsorship and volunteering, please contact Farrah-Marie Gomes, Chair at hawaiiislandwlf@gmail.com.  Follow HIWLF on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hiwlf for future announcements about the Summit.