Friends, family remember those lost in Ka Loko dam breach

Family and friends held a beachside celebration yesterday to remember the seven people who were swept away by the March 14 Ka Loko Reservoir dam breach.

“We miss them all terribly, and we miss them daily,” Bruce Fehring said.

Fehring lost his daughter, Aurora Fehring, his son-in-law, Alan Dingwall, and his grandson, Rowan Fehring-Dingwall.

“We are battered, but we are whole,” Fehring said.

He described his son-in-law as strong, tall, kind and gentle.

“He was even-tempered, helpful, a devoted dad, a loving husband,” Fehring said. “That was Alan.”

He said his daughter was wise beyond her 24 years, and beautiful inside and out.

“A trusted adviser and teacher and leader,” he said. “She was a mother hen to me. That was Aurora.”

Fehring described 2-year-old Rowan as the family’s “joyful Pooh Bear.”

“He was always ready, willing and able, and energetic,” Fehring said. “He loved the Baby Beluga book, and above all, his mama and his papa.”

Despite their loss, the family will heal.

“We (will) move forward, but we will never forget,” he said.

The tragedy also tore apart a family in the making.

Kaua‘i residents Daniel Arroyo, 33, and Christina “Sunny” McNees, 22, were to be married within the week.

“In one year I grew to love her as one of my closest friends,” said John Kurtis Kunesh, McNees’s former housemate. “We shared so many dreams in that one year.”

Kunesh said that McNees is not really gone.

She’s in my memories, she’s in my heart, she’s a part of myself, he said.

Wayne “Banyan” Rotstein and Timothy Noonan were also killed.

Rotstein, 49, was a caretaker and gardener for Fehring. His younger brother Gary, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said Kaua‘i is strikingly different from their native Pittsburgh.

Growing up, he said, “everything around us was asphalt.”

At the celebration, Gary wore his brother’s T-shirt from a New Vrindaban temple in West Virginia.

“This shirt is one of the few things that I felt represented him,” he said.

“It is part of the deep spiritual transformation that he went through. He was a peaceful man of the earth from the time he left us.”

About 250 people joined in the celebration at Kahili Beach, or Rock Quarry Beach, in Kilauea.

After family members and friends spoke, members of Halau Hula Na Lei Kupua O Kaua‘i performed two dances, then presented their leis to the families.

The ashes of Aurora Fehring and Alan Dingwall were also spread out at sea.

For the families of those whose bodies have not been recovered, the healing continues as well.

Paul Rotstein said he thinks about his son every day.

“He went from concrete to soil,” Rotstein said. “He loved the land.”

He said his son was probably out in Fehring’s garden when the floodwaters hit.

“He didn’t have one green thumb, he had 10 green thumbs,” Rotstein said.

“He was probably out in the garden because he’d get up at 3 in the morning to take the insects off the plants.”

Rotstein said his son visited him at his home in Las Vegas a few weeks before the dam broke. They had a Super Bowl party, and everybody wore their Steelers shirts.

He saw his son for the last time the day before he returned to Kaua‘i.

“Wayne was a very personable individual,” Rotstein said. “I never heard an adverse word about him. He would do anything for anybody.”

• Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco.com.

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