HONOLULU (KHON2) — It was a scary moment for Caroline Sasaki and her family. she was making her way to the living room couch Saturday night, Jan. 28, when a large boulder smashed through the home and narrowly missed her. Many in the community are concerned another boulder could come crashing down. 

Sasaki is lucky she did not take another step forward. She was just inches away from a massive boulder striking her. The boulder came down a mountain with such force that it broke through a concrete wall, glass door and into a bedroom. 

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Sasaki said, “I didn’t even see the rock really, in reality. I heard the loud boom; and then, I kind of backed out.”

She walked away with only scrapes on her leg. One contractor estimated the rock could weigh up to 3,000 pounds. She heard from the City’s Emergency Management Department which let her know that the property where the boulder came from was not owned by the City. 

Sasaki also reached out to elected officials representing the area to try to bring awareness to the hazards posed by the boulder to the Palolo Valley community. 

She said, “I’m upset and frustrated because people are not doing anything to address the situation.”

Neighbors have raised concerns about the excavation of the mountain to make way for a home development, and they are afraid the project might be tied to the falling boulders. Several neighbors said boulders coming down were not common, but they have experienced at least three large falling rocks in the last couple of days. 

The City’s Department and Planning responded to the incident and the concerns of neighbors. The DPP Director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna told KHON2 News they are investigating whether the demolition, grading and building permits for a proposed two-story, two-family detached residence are in compliance. So far they said they’ve found no wrongdoing.

“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.”

Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, Director, Department of Planning and Permitting

KHON2 News also contacted an independent contractor to assess the mountain slope for other hazards. Prometheus Construction Vice President Cliff Tillotson said there are a couple of large rocks that could be trouble in the near future. 

Tillotson said, “In situations like this, where it’s not the whole hillside that’s bad just certain outcroppings, is to stabilize them in place either demolish them or net them or put bolts through them.”

His expert opinion is that the home development is likely not contributing to the boulders rolling down. 

Tillotson said, “My eye is telling me that it came from way up there, so there isn’t a real connection.”

Tillotson said his crewmembers will be able to remove the boulder from inside the home at no cost, he also plans on flying a drone over the mountain to inspect for other threats.

Meanwhile, the owner of the land above is realtor Peter Savio. He said the City knows boulders are a hazard throughout the island, and this just happens to be his land. 

The City said it remains the landowner’s responsibility to address mitigation efforts of the boulders. 

“The city has got to take some of the responsibility,” Savio said. “We have to work together to solve this problem.”

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Savio said he would like to have a community meeting, city and elected officials included, to discuss how to move forward.