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Hilo ice factory vandalized, owner shuts it down

Updated: 
August 14, 2014 - 8:12am

At a time when victims of Tropical Storm Iselle are without power and clamoring for ice, an ice factory on Banyan Drive in Hilo has been vandalized.

The damage occurred either late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

Jon Bockrath, owner of Alii Ice, was visibly angered Wednesday. He said he’s closing the plant and laying off his 13 employees “until someone is incarcerated for this.”

“It was malicious damage,” Bockrath said. “They didn’t get into my facility. They destroyed a couple of my $45,000 vehicles. They did this damage here (pointing to a shattered glass door). So, as of right now, nothing is going out of this plant until that individual is in prison.

“I’m shutting the operation down as of right now. … I don’t need this.”

Bockrath pointed to a group of trucks and vans behind the facilities where two police officers were processing evidence.

“They busted out the windows on a couple of them,” he said. “They busted up the ignition on one. They ripped one open, took out the air intake, jammed it up. … I don’t know if they dumped anything into my gas. I don’t know what all the damage is at this point. But I can’t run those trucks now. Until I know, I’m not even gonna try. Two-hundred-thousand dollars worth of vehicles right there.”

Bockrath said he thinks the burglar alarm probably scared away the vandal or vandals.

“(Police) said our alarm went off at 10 p.m. last night,” he said. “The police came down and said they arrested a couple of individuals — they didn’t say who or for what — in the general area. That’s the only thing that we know. We don’t have a surveillance system here. I have an alarm system here but not (cameras).”

Lt. James Gusman of Hilo Patrol Division said Wednesday afternoon police have “a person of interest who’s in custody for something else.”

“He’s not specifically arrested for that right now,” Gusman said, and declined to name the individual.

Bockrath, who has owned Alii Ice since 1981 and worked out of the Banyan Drive location since 2002, said the factory produces 40,000 pounds of ice daily.

Bockrath said he doesn’t know why anyone would vandalize the facility, adding since the storm hit, he’s limited customers to 100 pounds of ice apiece to ensure all customers are served.

“The first day, people were coming in, taking 300, 400, 500 pounds at a time,” he said. “They don’t need more than a hundred pounds. … That was an issue to keep ice going to the people. We donated some to Civil Defense. … We worked with the Lions Club. They were coming in, taking ice for distribution. We did all we could.

“We had a belligerent, obnoxious, obscene phone call left on our answering machine (Tuesday). My employee didn’t keep it. He erased the recording. … I don’t know if it’s related, that particular incident or not. But it’s that attitude and that kind of obnoxiousness and so forth that I’m not gonna tolerate.”

Bockrath’s wife, Mardi, said they have been “trying to help as many people as we can.”

“It’s hard to get the ice produced and out to everybody,” she said. “We were trying to help as many people as we can. … The machines can only produce so much. I know everybody’s trying to help. They’re bringing in more (ice) from Honolulu. The majority of the Hilo people who have been standing in line have been so nice, so understanding just to get something. But somebody just has to ruin it for everybody.

“It’s going to hurt the community.”

Civil Defense said Wednesday afternoon that Big Island Ice Co. of Kailua-Kona and others are attempting to make up for the shortfall caused by Alii Ice’s closure.

Also coming to the rescue is Safeway. A written statement late Wednesday by the supermarket chain said the company is sending more than 16 tons of ice, two containers, from Oahu to be distributed through the American Red Cross aid station at the Pahoa Community Center today. The ice is expected to be available by 2 p.m.

“Many of our neighbors in the Puna area have been hit hard by Iselle and are still in need of basic supplies,” said George Glukfeld, Safeway Hawaii district manager. “This is the time for our entire community to pull together and do what we can to help in the relief effort.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.