Shark Boat Arson ‘Not Local Way’

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - February 02, 2011
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The Kailolo and Kolohe were nearly destroyed by an arsonist

One by one the curious pulled up in cars and trucks to a gated area at Haleiwa Boat Harbor to see the damage for themselves. Most slowed then quietly drove away, while others stopped their vehicles, got out and stared in disbelief.

“That ain’t the local way,” says North Shore resident and business owner Bryan Suratt as he looked over the wreckage. “It’s a sad day, sad moment in Haleiwa.”

The Kailolo and the Kolohe sat side-by-side on trailers, both subjects of separate arson cases. The investigation site looked more like a mini-boat graveyard compared with the rest of the harbor, which was bustling with business and activity.

News of the second arson case involving a North Shore Shark Adventures tour boat in 17 days quickly traveled through Haleiwa and beyond.

Company owner Joe Pavsek says his phone hasn’t stopped ringing and e-mails have flooded his computer.

“We’ve been getting calls and e-mails from all across the world, people who’ve enjoyed this tour,” says a disheartened Pavsek. “They can’t believe this has happened again.”

The first incident came Jan. 7. An eyewitness told firefighters he thought it was an electrical fire. Investigators told Pavsek there was a 51 percent chance the Kailolo was set on fire by an arsonist. The company moved forward.

Then on the morning of Jan. 24, Pavsek’s phone rang again. Another boat in his fleet was on fire in its slip. By the time firefighters arrived, the Kolohe was engulfed in flames.

“This one was easy. You could see the splashes of gasoline, so it was very deliberate,” says Pavsek. “This fire was much hotter and it seemed like it was started in different spots.”

Fire investigators released their findings in less than 12 hours and handed the case over to Honolulu police.

The obvious question being asked now is who?

But the more emotional one is why?

The shark diving tour industry has had its share of controversies over the years with accusations of illegal shark feeding and misuse of ocean resources.

But on the opposite end, supporters say the tours bring valuable foot traffic to Oahu’s North Shore while offering educational opportunities for those interested in learning about the mysterious creatures.

No matter what side of the issue you’re on, most will agree, setting fire to someone else’s property “ain’t the local way.” This was criminal and simply ugly. Some have suggested this was a hate crime. Legally, that would be tough to prove in court, but if the fires were intentional, then it was a hateful act. Others are quietly saying copycats and insurance claims.

Emotional issues have long divided communities across Hawaii including the hot-button: rail transit. There have been others: Hawaii Superferry, Kahoolawe, Makua Valley, Waiahole-Waikane and the arrival of big-box retailers.

Over the years, island residents have stood tall to express their concerns and beliefs. Many have challenged Mainland corporations and even government, resulting in arrest and incarceration. It is our right to fight for what we believe in. But to destroy another person’s property including the innocent (neighboring boats were also damaged in the fires) is unacceptable.

For those who disagree, I ask this simple question: “Would your kupuna approve of the violent act?”

I know my tutus would not, no matter where I stood on the issue.

A word to the guilty: It ain’t the local way. It just isn’t Hawaii.

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