2 Maunakea Observatories support vehicles reportedly vandalized

HILO — Two Maunakea Observatories Support Services vehicles were apparently vandalized last weekend while parked in Hilo.

According to an incident report, two vehicles — a white 2017 Toyota Sienna and a gray 2018 Nissan Frontier — were found Sunday with punctured gas tanks after having been parked overnight in front of the Maunakea Observatories Support Services office on Makaala Street.

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University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said the two vehicles were marked with UH insignia and were confirmed to be in fine condition Saturday afternoon. However, after smelling gas the following day, drivers discovered multiple punctures in both vehicles’ gas tanks.

The total damage to both vehicles is estimated to be more than $3,000.

Hilo Patrol Capt. Kenneth Quiocho said there is no way of determining the motive behind the vandalism, although he said he would not rule out the possibility that it was a direct retaliation against Maunakea Observatories and UH for their involvement in supporting the polarizing Thirty Meter Telescope project.

“Taking away the fact that these were Maunakea support services vehicles, it could just as easily have been your or my vehicle,” Quiocho said.

A similar case of vandalism against an unaffiliated vehicle was recently reported at UH-Hilo, Quiocho said, but a suspect was identified in that case and was found to have been attempting to steal gasoline from the vehicle.

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The investigation into the incident is ongoing, Quiocho said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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