Oahu homeowner recalls near miss with boulder that crashed into her Palolo home
HONOLULU (KITV) -- A 65-year resident of Palolo, Caroline Sasaki said she has never heard of a boulder falling from the west side of the valley, until one plunged into her own home over the weekend.
Sasaki recalled walking into her living room to watch television just before midnight, Saturday, when the 5-foot by 5-foot rock rolled past her.
"All I heard was the boom when the glass cracked from the sliding door, so I backed up and I guess it passed right through me," Sasaki recounted.
Sasaki's family was in the process of moving into the newly-built hillside home and have been there for about a week.
According to the Honolulu Police Department, the boulder appeared to have plowed through the property's cinderblock wall, struck the family's car, rammed through a glass door, across the living room floor and into another wall before landing in a bedroom on the second story of the Palolo Avenue home.
A security camera captured the startling moment.
"I haven't watched the video, but they said if I took one more step, I probably wouldn't be here," Sasaki said.
Due to her bad leg, Sasaki added she walks slowly, which she believes may have actually helped delay her from crossing the boulder's path.
Sasaki also suspects the boulder came from excavation work happening above her home, closer to the mountain, and said she has been urging city leaders to stop the development.
"I was in fear of this happening from before, from when they started," Sasaki said.
After Saturday's incident, Sasaki said she is especially determined to have the work stopped. But for now, she's grateful to still be alive.
With a lump in her throat, Sasaki said, "I would like to just thank all of my family and friends for helping. Thank you."
HFD reported another area resident said a smaller, roughly 2-foot by 2-foot boulder hit his retaining wall but did not go onto his property.
KITV4 reached out to the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting for details on the excavation work.
Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, Director of Department of Planning and Permitting, responded wi the following statement:
"The neighboring landowner submitted applications to the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) for demolition, grading and building permits for a proposed two-story, two-family detached residence. DPP reviewed those applications, including the plans, scope of work and compliance with pertinent codes and ordinances. As a result of the recent rock fall event, DPP sent out inspectors to determine whether the developer exceeded the permitted scope of work and plans, and complied with all codes and ordinances. DPP’s investigation is ongoing, and the City is unable to determine any wrongdoing by the developer at this time. It would be irresponsible and premature to point any fingers at any particular party, landowner or event without knowing the full details of what has occurred. We will provide more details as they develop."
"After viewing the horrific video, I reached out to Mrs. Sasaki today out of concern for her and to answer any questions she may have had. We assured her that we will investigate and report back to her as soon as possible," Apuna added.
District 5 Councilmember Calvin Say, who chairs the committee on zoning, also issued a statement about this incident:
“I am so grateful that no one was physically injured by the boulder that crashed into The Sasaki’s family home during the heavy rains this weekend. After this weekend’s incident with Ms. Sasaki, the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) sent out building and civil engineering inspectors to investigate. Separately, I was contacted by a constituent in mid-January who was concerned about construction on Palolo Avenue in the same area as the boulder incident. My office reached out to the DPP, who sent an inspector to the property and found that the shotcrete wall and rock fall fence in question were on the approved plans, and therefore there was no violation.”
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