Detour likely saved man’s life

Dennis Barretto likely will be eternally grateful to one of his new customers whom he doesn’t even know.

While delivering his routes of The Garden Island newspaper early Tuesday morning, in the Kilauea area, he forgot to deliver a newspaper to a new customer in the Kalihi Makai subdivision, so doubled back to make that delivery.

That act likely kept him from being swept seaward by a huge, wide wall of water that knocked out everything in its path from mauka of Kuhio Highway to the ocean, he said.

“That two minutes is the one that had saved my life,” Barretto said via his cell phone yesterday from the Kilauea Neighborhood Center.

He remembers being on Kuhio Highway when a wall of water six to eight feet high washed over the road. The driver of the vehicle in front of him tried to get through, and stalled. They were able to get him out OK, he said.

The driver behind him was yelling that utility poles behind them were falling down, and Barretto could see sparks flying, evidence of the poles giving way to the rush of water.

“The sound — it was like the whole mountain of things was coming down. It was a weird sound,” he said.

“You could hear the water. It was just like bowling, like 20 guys bowling,” said Barretto, who said he will always remember the amount of debris and mud being deposited on the roads and moved around by the water.

“I prayed about it, my heart was going, and I’m OK, and that’s the most important thing. My heart goes out to the families of those missing,” he said.

Around 3 a.m. Tuesday, he had delivered newspapers along Waiakalua Road south of Kilauea, and moved over to Wailapa Road, and noticed water was rising already.

Knowing that Ron Wiley of KQNG FM 93.5 doesn’t usually start his shift until around 5 a.m., but thinking he may have gone in early because of the flash-flood warning and heavy rain Barretto was driving through, he turned on his car radio.

Wiley was on the air, and Barretto called him on his cell phone, letting him know that the water was rising near Wailapa Road, where the homes that got washed away used to be.

Barretto normally delivers newspapers on both sides of the closed highway, and spent Tuesday night in the Kilauea Neighborhood Center gym, with around 20 other residents and visitors who were stuck on the north side of the closed highway.

Barretto, 53, said he planned on riding out of the area yesterday morning with others who had medical problems that necessitated them getting medicines or medical attention on the south side of the closed highway.

He said he had been getting weak because he hasn’t had access to the usual herbal supplements he takes.

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