Big Island news briefs for Saturday, June 10, 2023

Police investigate two ocean-related deaths in West Hawaii

Hawaii Island police are investigating the ocean-related deaths of two visitors in unrelated incidents within 24 hours of each other in West Hawaii.


On Wednesday at 7:54 p.m., Kona patrol officers responded to Keauhou Bay to a report of an unresponsive woman aboard a snorkeling tour boat.

The woman, identified as 62-year-old Barbara Bentrup of St. Louis, initially had difficulty breathing.

Bentrup was assisted to the deck of the vessel, where she remained conscious for 10 minutes before going unresponsive, police said. Staff performed CPR as the vessel returned to the dock.

At the dock, Hawaii Fire Department medics took over, and Bentrup was transported to Kona Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 8:44 p.m.

In the other incident, police say a Texas man was a possible drowning victim Thursday morning.

At 11:33 a.m. Thursday, officers responded to a report of an unresponsive man who was pulled out of the ocean at Kauna‘oa Bay in South Kohala.

A lifeguard observed the man face-down in the ocean, pulled him to shore, and began CPR.

Hawaii Fire Department medics arrived on scene and continued CPR while transporting the victim to the Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital.

The unresponsive man, later identified as 68-year-old Charles Yanez of Katy, Texas, was pronounced dead about an hour later at 12:22 p.m.

Police have initiated coroner’s inquest investigations into both deaths and have ordered an autopsy for each case to determine the exact cause of death.

No foul play is suspected at this time in either case. Police ask anyone with information pertinent to either of these incidents to call the police department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.

Kona storage business to pay $130K fine

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced a settlement with Extra Space Management Inc. and Kaloko Storage 18 LLC, the respective operator and owner of the Extra Space Storage facility located at 73-4864 Kanalani St. in Kailua-Kona.

The two entities agreed to pay a $130,000 penalty, according to the EPA.

The Extra Space Storage facility had been operating an illegal large capacity cesspool at the property. Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA banned large capacity cesspools in 2005.

“Illegal large capacity cesspools pose major threats to groundwater and precious coastal resources across Hawaii,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman in a statement. “EPA is committed to using our enforcement authority to ensure that all such unlawful cesspools are permanently closed to protect the public health of residents and their vital water resources.”

The EPA inspected the Extra Space Storage facility in July 2021 and sent an information request in September of that year about the method of wastewater disposal at the property. The agency confirmed there was one large capacity cesspool in operation at the site. As a result, the cesspool was backfilled in December 2022, and Extra Space Management Inc. and Kaloko Storage 18 LLC agreed to pay the fine.

Reference to Merrie Monarch Festival to be added to stadium sign

Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium will tout event on its signage after County Council passed a resolution Wednesday.

Using $970, the Department of Parks and Recreation will expand the signage at the stadium to include the phrase, “Home of the Merrie Monarch Festival.”

Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, who introduced the resolution transferring those funds, said the expansion of the signage will promote the annual festival, which has been held at the stadium since 1978, except in 2020 when the festival was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The addition also comes after the stadium’s namesake, Edith Kanaka‘ole was featured on a U.S. Mint quarter earlier this year.

The name of the building itself will not be changed.

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