While the year of 2016 was full of ups and downs, of hope and sadness, of life and death, the aloha spirit proved to be strong. In selecting The Garden Island’s top stories of the year, we tried to focus on the positive. But some stories, despite tragic endings, are included.
1. Restricted-Use pesticide regulation
Kauai was at the center of pesticide regulation controversy this year that resulted in a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that counties don’t have the right to regulate pesticide use in Hawaii.
Kauai County was one of three counties to draft ordinances regulating the use of restricted-use pesticides by agribusiness companies. Bill 2491 became Ordinance 960 in 2013 after the County Council overrode a veto from Mayor Bernard Carvalho.
The November court decision overturned the bill and the County Council repealed it in December.
In 2014, the state’s Department of Agriculture appointed a Joint Fact-Finding group made up of representation from both sides of the aisle. Results from that group were published in a March report.
The state took recommendations from that JFF report when unveiling its new plan to address RUP use in the state in December. The goal of the plan is to focus on environmental sampling, emergency response exercises for pesticide incidents and public health education.
The state plan also recommends users of RUP products enter into the Good Neighbor Program, which provides for outreach to neighbors within a 1,000-foot radius of a location before pesticides are sprayed.
2. Kauai County Council election
A former state representative and a new politician were voted to serve on the Kauai County Council in November.
Derek Kawakami, a former state representative for District 14, topped the race, earning 15,990 votes, about 3,000 more than the second-place finisher.
Arthur Brun, who ran for a council seat in 2014, but fell short by just over 100 votes, came in sixth place, receiving 11,003 votes. The other five seats went to incumbents — JoAnn Yukimura, Mel Rapozo, Mason Chock, Arryl Kaneshiro and Ross Kagawa.
Incumbents Gary Hooser and KipuKai Kuali‘i fell short in their bids for reelection.
The race for the seven seats also saw many firsttime candidates. Those included Juno-Ann Apalla, Norma Doctor Sparks, Matt Bernabe, and Richard Fukushim.
3. 5 die in plane crash
HANAPEPE — Five people were killed in a plane crash at the Port Allen Airport in May.
The single-engine Cessna 182H owned by Skydive Kauai had just taken off for skydive tour around 9:30 a.m. when it crashed and burned.
A pilot, two skydive instructors and two tandem jumpers were on board, according to a release from the Kauai Fire Department.
Four of the passengers were pronounced dead on the scene. A man was taken to Wilcox Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“My condolences go out to the family,” said Dave Timko, president of Skydive Kauai.
The pilot, Damien Horan, 30, and the four passengers — skydive instructors Enzo Amitrano, 43, and Wayne Rose, 26, and tandem skydivers brothers Marshall and Phillip Cabe — died in the crash.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims’ family and loved ones. (Monday was) an incredibly sad day for our close-knit community here on Kauai,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. said.
4. Fourth Wave, Roving Jet Ski Patrol
KOLOA — Alohi Costa is looking forward to starting his new assignment: driving along the south and Westside of the island, keeping an eye on the unguarded beaches.
“It’s really exciting to see the bureau grow,” he said. “We want to help people and expand our services.”
On Dec. 1, Costa, a seven-year veteran with the Ocean Safety Bureau, began driving one of three 2016 Ram Quad Cab four-wheel-drive trucks that will patrol along Kauai’s unguarded beaches and help prevent drownings.
The trucks, which come with trailers, Jet Skis and rescue equipment, were donated to OSB by the Kauai Lifeguard Association for the roving patrol program.
The donation was made possible in part by 250 donors who attended the Fourth Wave Campaign concert and celebration in October organized by the Kauai Lifeguard Association.
As part of the program, each of the trucks and their equipment will be stationed at three areas of the island — the North Shore, the Eastside and the South/Westside — keeping an eye on the beaches and keeping people safe.
This year, there were 13 reported drownings involving 11 tourists and two residents.
5. Namahoe launch
After more than 20 years of construction, Namahoe, Kauai’s sailing canoe, was born on Sept. 11 at Kalapaki Beach. Hundreds turned out for the launching ceremony, which included, a schedule of day-long activities and entertainment
Mike Faye of Kikiaola Construction Co. headlined the effort to move the two unfinished hulls of the Namahoe, Kauai’s voyaging canoe, when it was moved from the Halehaka shed to Nawiliwili Harbor in 2006.
“We started building in 1999,” said John Kruse, one of the key leaders and builders of Namahoe. “The last known canoe was launched on Kauai in the 1870s. This is the first one since that time.”
6. Aloha Angels
The Aloha Angels continue their amazing work for education on Kauai.
At the start of the school year, 225 teachers at 12 Kauai public elementary schools and their 5,000 students received about $200,000 from Aloha Angels, a donor advised fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation.
Of that, about $160,000 was earmarked to reimburse teachers for classroom supplies and field trips.
About $35,000 compensated teachers for mentoring 60 after-school clubs at seven schools. Activities included art, dance, sports, music, reading, crafts and cooking.
Since it was launched in May 2015, Aloha Angels under the leadership of Ric Cox has raised $478,000 from 100 donors to support Kauai teachers and students, according to a release. A total of 113 teachers on the island have been adopted through the organization.
7. WWII Filipino vet to receive highest civilian award
LIHUE — The island’s last surviving Filipino World War II veteran received the nation’s highest civilian honor.
The Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama, awarding Kauai resident and World War II veteran Sixto Tabay the medal.
Tabay is the last surviving Filipino veteran on Kauai — out of 13 — who served on the 12th Infantry Division, a group of 10,473 Filipinos enlisted from the Philippines to fight for the United States.
Though the war ended in 1945, Tabay is considered a World War II veteran because was among the Filipino veterans recruited to serve.
“I’m very thankful for my services in the United States Army,” said Tabay in a previous TGI interview.
The veteran served from 1946 to 1949 as a small arms repairman.
Sadly, there were two murder suicides this year on Kauai.
In November, Janese Singh, 40, died of multiple gunshot wounds and her ex-husband Juanito Singh,67, died of a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound at an apartment in Kalepa Village. Juanito Singh was presumed dead at the scene. Janese Singh was transported to Wilcox Medical Center, where she later died.
In July, Justin C. Gibbons, 45, shot and killed Celestae Gibbons, 42, at the Halelani Village condominium project, and then shortly afterward turned the gun on himself.
According to police, Celestae arrived home about 10 p.m. with her 9-year-old daughter. Upon exiting her vehicle, she was approached by her estranged husband, Justin Gibbons, while their daughter sat in the backseat. An argument ensued and he shot her, police said. Celestae ran into a nearby unit, but Justin Gibbons followed inside the unit and shot her again, police said.
The girl was unharmed.
9. Wailua Falls jump
Shiloh Shahan became a social media sensation when videos of him leaping from Wailua Falls in September go viral, and The Garden Island publishes a story and video of the jump.
David McGrath and his daughter, swimming in the water below, watched the jump and saved Shahan when he was knocked out by the impact.
“It was just a crazy experience,” McGrath said in a phone interview with The Garden Island.
McGrath, his partner Sharene and his daughter Jane had hiked down to the bottom of the falls on a Friday afternoon and were hanging out.
“Then, these two figures appeared at the top of the falls,” McGrath said. “One seemed to be assessing jumping. I saw his friend hold up his phone.”
McGrath, who is from Bainbridge Island in Washington State, couldn’t believe someone would jump from the top of the falls, an estimated 173-foot drop. In case they did, he picked up his cellphone and turned on the video.
About 35 seconds later, a shirtless young man wearing black shorts with red stripes, leaps. As he falls, his arms are waving and his legs are kicking, then turn still. He plunges feet first into the water below, perhaps 35 feet deep.
At that point, McGrath and his daughter swam out to the man, floating face down, and pulled him to shore. His daughter, a lifeguard, used her skills to stabilize him. They covered him with towels while Sharene ran to the parking lot above to get cellphone reception and call for help.
Without the visitors there, McGrath believes 21-year-old Shiloh Shahan would have died.
“This guy escaped death,” he said.
Shiloh Shahan, who was OK and returned home to California, said in an interview with TGI he was visiting relatives on Kauai when a friend took him to Wailua Falls. When he looked at the falls, he knew one thing.
“I automatically wanted to jump. I just did. It just called to me,” he said.
He said he hopes to do it again.
For what was believed to be the first time in about 50 years, a hukilau was held on Kauai in August.
Fishermen in boats cast more than 1,000 feet of nets off North Shore beach. Divers made sure the nets weren’t tangled, and they were slowly pulled together and back toward shore by a crowd of keiki and kupuna, locals and visitors.
As waves rolled in and the sun blazed, the net was pulled to shore while hundreds looked on and snapped pictures, waiting to see the catch.
In the net, a few needlefish, oio and aholehole flipped around before being gathered up. It wasn’t a huge catch, but that didn’t matter.
“The main point is to bring community together, to teach younger generations, and have the aunties and uncles and families that have been doing this for generations to pass it down,” said Kati Conant, executive director of Hale Halawai ‘Ohana Hanalei, one of the sponsors. “For me, it was a beautiful learning experience.”
Decades ago on Kauai, when a school of fish was spotted in the water, families would come down to help the fishermen bring the nets in. Once the fish were gathered, the fish would be distributed to all who pitched in.
Families would come down from the mountain, from all around the island, and bring taro, bananas and other staples to share.
“They give to the fishermen and the fishermen give them fish,” Uncle Blue Kinney said. “That is what they do.”
11. Hepatitis A outbreak
Raw scallops served at Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai were identified as the likely source of a hepatitis A outbreak in Hawaii in August. The product was Sea Port Bay Scallops, wild harvested and frozen, and the state Department of Health issued an embargo on the product. The DOH also temporarily closed all Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai.
The total number of confirmed cases reached about 300 and 74 cases required hospitalization. Three of the confirmed cases were from Kauai.
Kauai’s Genki Sushi location closed in accordance with the DOH mandate and reopened September 16 with a clean bill of health from the department.
12. The Wall
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg builds a wall along his property in Kilauea to the annoyance of some locals, who weren’t happy to see it going up.
The wall extended along Koolau Road, near mile marker 20, and is about six-feet tall.
The rockwall’s primary purpose is to mitigate highway and road noise, said an official with knowledge of the project.
Former Kauai Councilman Tim Bynum passed away Nov. 18 at the age of 62.
Barbara Funamura, who created Spam musubi, died on May 12 at age the age of 78.
Kazuma “Monty” Nishiie, a World War II hero, died on October at the age of 101.
Charles Kawakami, a community businessman known for giving back, died early December at the age of 75.
While there were many stories TGI covered in 2016 on Kauai, and it was difficult to leave them out, this list highlights the year.