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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Estate helping Hawai'i Kai rockfall victims

By James Gonser
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kamehameha Schools has completed its initial assessment of the Hawai'i Kai hillside where a pair of huge boulders fell on cars on Thanksgiving evening, and the estate has decided to help the car owners collect compensation.

The estate also decided to come up with a plan to prevent more rockslides.

Kamehameha Schools Chief Executive Officer Hamilton I. McCubbin said the boulders will be removed, and an insurance adjuster has been to the site to begin the process of paying for damages.

"Kamehameha Schools will take the lead in helping to get this process under way," McCubbin said amid an investigation to determine whether the boulders fell from estate property.

Tracy and Sione Galvez had just finished eating Thanksgiving dinner when the boulders fell about 8 p.m. Thursday — one 4 by 6 feet and the other 4 by 4 feet — and crashed into their Honda sport utility vehicle and a Lexus sedan parked outside their Lalea townhome at the bottom of Mariners Ridge.

A window in their townhome was also broken.

"I just want the rock off my car," said Tracy Galvez. "I don't want to see it anymore."

Heavy rain preceded the rockslide and also sent volleyball-size rocks crashing onto Kalaniana'ole Highway from the cliffs above Makapu'u Beach. Galvez said it has continued to rain in the area, which makes her very nervous.

"I guess I will always panic when it rains now," Galvez said. "Last night it was raining and I didn't want to leave my dog out today. I was worried more rocks would fall. When you look up you can see a lot of loose rocks ready to fall down. Kamehameha Schools said there are two questionable boulders above where it fell that they are concerned with."

McCubbin said an engineering firm has been retained to survey the rockslide area and will be on site today. A review of the rockslide is also under way to determine who are the responsible parties and how to prevent future incidents.

"While Kamehameha Schools is moving to address the immediate situation, there may be other responsible parties that may need to become involved in arriving at an equitable long-term solution," McCubbin said.

Kekoa Paulsen, Kamehameha Schools spokesman, said the estate is not accepting full liability for the rockslide, but wants to help the victims process their claims quickly.

"We've got adjusters working with them," Paulsen said. "They are documenting everything and we are doing the same."

Paulsen said he is not sure if there is an immediate danger in the area.

"Geologists have been up there and are surveying the site and will give us a report on what we should do," he said. "They will assess any further danger up there and we will take whatever actions we need to make sure it is stable and bring some kind of control back to that situation."

O'ahu's crumbling cliffs have become a major concern since a 5-ton boulder fell and killed Dara Onishi on Aug. 9 as she slept in her Nu'uanu bedroom.

Rocks fall as part of the natural erosion of islands, according to geology experts, and there is almost no way to predict when or where they will fall.

An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 homes O'ahu homes could be in danger.