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Family hopes for tougher punishment for Donaldson Enterprises

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Sep 29 2012 11:11:31 AM HST

Word on an indictment against the company allegedly responsible for the Waikele bunker explosion and five men's deaths.

HONOLULU -

"It hasn't gotten easier. We're just taking one day at a time," said Deborah Dulatre, whose nephew, Justin Keli'i, was one of five men killed in the blast.

On April 8, 2011, the explosion blew through the blast doors at a Waikele storage bunker, igniting a truck parked outside.

"You just try to live with the pain," said Dulatre.

Kevin Freeman, Neil Sprankle, Robert Leahey, Bryan Cabalce and Justin Keli'i were killed.

Dulatre said the civil lawsuit filed by their families in recent months is moving slowly, but word of a federal indictment has given them new hope.

"What we have here is a pattern of activity, a pattern of treating hazardous waste, and essentially the treatment of those fireworks without first obtaining a permit," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson.

A federal grand jury has handed down a 21-count indictment against Charles Donaldson, director of operations, Carlton Finley, DEI project manager, and the company, Donaldson Enterprises.

Sorenson said the company did have a 90-day permit to dismantle and dispose of a first batch of seized, illegal fireworks, but said the company's permit to continue its work expired seven months before the explosion.

Last fall, the state issued 12 citations against DEI for failing to ensure safe working conditions.

Dulatre says she hopes federal charges will end with a much harder blow.

"I just want to make sure this isn't swept under the rug and that Donaldson Enterprises knows it can't get away with what happened. They are responsible for five lives and the lives that these five people have left behind," she said.

Donaldson and Finley are also charged with conspiring to treat hazardous waste without a permit. Their first court appearance is next Wednesday at 9 a.m.
 

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