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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 18, 2006

911 call: 'All my buildings are gone'

 •  911 phone calls: Bruce Fehring, Tom Hitch call 1 and call 2. Available in mp3 format.
 •  Federal aid sought in recovery efforts

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Soon after the Kaloko Reservoir dam on Kaua'i collapsed Tuesday morning, the magnitude of the devastation was captured in the first calls to emergency 911 operators.

Kaua'i police yesterday released several 911 calls from people near the scene. The time of the calls were not stamped on the recordings, but it was clear from the reaction of a 911 operator that the first she heard of the collapse was from one of these callers.

Tom Hitch was that caller and he desperately wanted to be connected with Kaua'i Civil Defense. He described the situation as a "catastrophic emergency."

"Kaloko dam has broken and this is a major catastrophe," Hitch told the operator. "Civil Defense should be notified. I'd like to get Civil Defense up to the reservoir."

Hitch told the operator that he was at the Morita Reservoir, which was overflowing because of the breach at the Kaloko dam above. He was later heard talking to another person with him, saying he wanted to "go up there."

"What I want to do is get up there with Civil Defense or at least one of you guys," he said. "I've only got a small four-wheel truck. Hopefully I can make it up there."

The recording ended with Hitch praying that no one was killed.

"God I hope nobody died in this," he said.

Another call was from Bruce Fehring, owner of the property that was swept away by the raging floodwaters. Fehring said he was calling from across Kuhio Highway, downstream from the devastated area, but he feared the worst.

"My name is Bruce Fehring. I own property at Wailapa Road in Kilauea," Fehring told the operator. "My neighbor tells me that all my buildings are gone on my property. There are at least half-a-dozen people living there.

"There are at least six people there," he continued. "And the neighbor tells me they look across the street and they see the building is gone."

Three of Fehring's relatives were staying in the home. The body of Alan Dingwall, Fehring's son-in-law, has been recovered. But still missing or not identified are Aurora Fehring, Bruce Fehring's daughter, and Rowan Fehring-Dingwall, the couple's 2-year-old son.

Wayne Rotstein, 49, a caretaker and gardener on the Fehring property, also is missing.

Bruce Fehring told the 911 operator that he wanted to make his way across the stream and go to his property. But as he spoke, the operator interrupted him and said he shouldn't endanger himself.

"Thank you" were the last words Fehring said to the operator.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.