Zip line tower failed initial inspection

This Hawaii County Police photo shows the collapsed, 30-foot zip line tower on Line No. 8 at Honolii Mountain Out- post, at left, and a rope bridge walkway connecting it to another platform.

Inspector who approved platforms that later collapsed no longer works for county 

By COLIN M. STEWART
Staff Writer
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

An East Hawaii zip line tower failed to pass an initial county inspection prior to its collapse in September, killing one worker and seriously injuring another. 

The platform was one of 14 newly constructed elevated platforms on 565 acres at 27-5159 Puia Road that were assessed by county building inspector Mark Jacobsen, according to reports obtained through an open records request to the county’s Public Works’ Building Division. 

In his inspection report, Jacobsen noted that the framing for the structures was “not to plans,” and that 4×6 bracing had changed. His report also noted that the project architect, William Foulk, would have to approve all footings and framing for the platforms. 

A follow-up inspection performed on June 15 noted that Foulk had given those approvals, and trusses had been added to all platforms. The follow-up inspection report was marked as complete, and the platforms passed a final inspection on July 11. 

The eight-line course, which was built to accommodate zip line excursions offered by Hilo-based KapohoKine Adventures, was in operation for several weeks, and riders had complained that one line was running too slow. Two contracted workers tightened the line on Sept. 21 and were testing it when the 30-foot tower collapsed. 

Ted Callaway, 36, of Lahaina, Maui, was riding across the 2,300-foot line and dropped 200 feet to his death on the rocky Honolii Stream bed below. His 35-year-old colleague, Curtis Wright of Miamisburg, Ohio, was standing on the tower waiting his turn to ride across when the incident occurred. He was taken to Hilo Medical Center in critical condition with several fractured ribs and vertebrae, as well as a collapsed lung. He was later transferred to the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, and released in October to a rehabilitation center. 

Public Works Deputy Director Brandon Gonzalez did not return a phone call seeking comment by deadline Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, the county’s Human Resources department confirmed that Jacobsen, the inspector who signed off on the final inspection for the zip line platforms, no longer works for the county. There was no indication that his departure from the Building Division was related to the zip line incident. 

Investigations into the tower collapse at both the county and state levels have yet to release any findings. Bill Kunstman, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said Tuesday he did not know when the results from the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division’s inquiry would be complete or released to the public. 

All zip line tours through KapohoKine Adventures remain on hold, according to an associate who answered the phone Tuesday in the Hilo office. 

Click here for a PDF of the original newspaper pages.

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