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Two Indicted in Deadly Fireworks Explosion

Mon, 10/01/2012 - 6:24am
OSKAR GARCIA,Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — A grand jury in Hawaii indicted two men and a company over their mishandling of seized fireworks that led to a deadly explosion in an Oahu bunker last year, federal prosecutors said Friday.

U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni in Hawaii said 37-year-old Charles Donaldson of Kaneohe, 65-year-old Carlton Finley of Honolulu and Donaldson Enterprises Inc. are accused of treating hazardous wastes without a permit.

The Waipahu-based company did not immediately respond to a telephone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The April 2011 blast killed five Donaldson employees in an explosion so ferocious it scorched trees 40 feet away.

The company had a contract to manage and dispose of 28 pallets of commercial grade fireworks, which had been seized by federal law enforcement. Employees spent seven months breaking apart fireworks and soaking them in diesel fuel after a temporary emergency permit to handle them as waste expired, according to the indictment.

The explosion was ruled accidental, though an exact cause was not determined. Investigators said the explosion was not likely malicious.

Donaldson, Finley and the company are accused of knowingly treating hazardous wastes without a permit. Donaldson was the company's director of operations, while Finley was a project manager responsible for the company's performance under certain contracts, the indictment said.

The fireworks were warehoused in a former military bunker in a Honolulu suburb. Donaldson rented the 4,000-square-foot World War II-era bunker to store the fireworks, which were considered evidence.

Investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board traveled twice to Oahu to interview Donaldson staff and gather samples of the fireworks. Part of the investigation focused on the process Donaldson used to dispose of the fireworks.

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Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia.

 

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