County settles zip line death, Kawa Bay cases

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HILO — Lawsuits against the county over a Kawa Bay police action and a zip line death are on their way to being settled, with votes earlier this week by the Hawaii County Council.

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HILO — Lawsuits against the county over a Kawa Bay police action and a zip line death are on their way to being settled, with votes earlier this week by the Hawaii County Council.

The council on Tuesday voted 8-1 to settle a 2013 case stemming from the death of a zip line worker who was testing a new facility when the line came loose and he fell to his death. Council Chairman Dru Kanuha, the lone no vote, declined to comment on his reasons.

The county settled for $26,400 without admitting liability, said Deputy Corporation Counsel Steven Strauss.

“The settlement amount was significantly less than the estimated cost of going to trial,” Strauss said Thursday.

The family of Ted Calloway, 36, of Maui, sued the county as well as a long list of zip line contractors and employment companies involved in the Paukaa construction site on behalf of six minor children.

The county was sued on the basis of permits it issued for the wooden towers that served as staging areas for the zip lines. Strauss said that the permit application characterized the towers as “observation towers,” rather than having anything to do with the zip line itself.

An investigation by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health concluded, “the tower collapsed because the soil in which the ground anchors were installed failed to withstand the load from the tower, cables and rider.”

Attorneys for the family didn’t return telephone calls by press time Thursday.

The other case, a police brutality case filed in federal court in 2014 by Kittrena Morgan, was settled for an unspecified amount on a 7-1 vote, with Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille voting no and Puna Councilman Danny Paleka recusing himself because he knows some of the defendants.

Wille said only that she wasn’t “comfortable” voting in favor of the settlement, without providing details. Deputy Corporation Counsel Christopher Schlueter declined comment.

Morgan is the hanai wife of Abel Lui, a Native Hawaiian activist who claimed he could continue to live at Kawa Bay, although the county had acquired the land to use as a park and received a court order to evict him. The case centers around Morgan’s treatment by Hawaii Police Department officers when they came to evict Luis and the others living on the property.

Morgan was the only person arrested during the removal. She alleged in court filings it was because she was filming the police, exercising her First Amendment rights and was the only white person and sole woman among the people present.

The county argued it was the result of her interference with police action, pointing to the fact she was found guilty of trespassing — although she was acquitted of resisting arrest.

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Morgan, who represented herself without an attorney in the proceedings, declined comment Thursday. Lui said he would talk about the case later, but not until it was completed.

“It’s not finished,” Lui said. “Kawa is not settled.”

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