‘Saved by the rubber on our tires’: Two escape injury after utility poles, wires fall on Alii Drive

  • Hawaiian Electric crews work on one of four poles needed to be replaced on Alii Drive Friday morning. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Toay)

  • Downed power lines along Alii Drive Friday morning are from multiple poles coming down. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Multiple poles came down on Alii Drive Friday morning. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Hawaiian Electric crews work on one of four poles needed to be replaced on Alii Drive Friday morning. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Toay)

  • A truck sustained damage after power lines landed on it, a result of poles coming down. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • A truck sustains damage after power lines landed on it, a result of poles coming down. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Kalei Kamauu and his partner left the Hawaiian Electric Co. baseyard on Kaiwi Street in Kailua-Kona around 6 a.m. Friday morning heading to Ocean View for a traffic control job with Kipapa Traffic Management when poles came crashing to the ground on Alii Drive fronting the Kona Reef.

“I thought it was an earthquake. The one pole started coming down and we tried to dodge it,” Kamauu said. “The transformer exploded when it hit the ground.”

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Kamauu said live electric and Hawaiian Telcom wires landed on the truck.

“We knew to stay in the truck until HECO got here,” he said. “It was scary knowing we were only saved by the rubber on our tires.”

He said the pole that came down for no apparent reason caused a chain reaction, bringing down three more poles and leaving another pole precariously leaning.

HECO spokesperson Kristen Okinaka said as of 9 a.m. Friday, approximately 300 customers in the area were without power. Power was restored to all customers by 8 p.m.

Okinaka said the electric company has a regular maintenance and inspection program with poles inspected every 10 years. The downed pole Friday was last inspected in 2021 with no significant deterioration noted.

HECO advises when lines from a utility pole fall to the ground, touch a guardrail or land on a car, that people stay at least 30 feet away from downed power lines. They should also assume the power lines are energized and dangerous.

If a person encounters a downed line, they shouldn’t run away; instead, keep they should keep their legs together and shuffle away with both feet on the ground to a safe distance (30 feet or more).

If a power line falls on a car while a person is inside, they should remain where they are, if possible, and wait for help.

If a person must get out of the car because of a fire or other hazard, jump free of the car, hopping with both feet together so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground. Once you clear the car, shuffle at least 30 feet away, with both feet on the ground. Never step down or simultaneously touch the ground and equipment that is in contact with the power line, as this will increase the risk of electrical shock.

If a person sees someone injured after touching a downed power line, call 911 for help, don’t try to rescue the individual because electrical current can travel through the victim.

Report downed power lines immediately by calling (808) 969-6666.

Okinaka said the cause of the pole coming down Friday was still under investigation.