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Soccer coach Chazz Kaaihue takes a call on his cellphone next to daughters Leia (left) and Hiilei on Saturday morning at Keopuolani Park. The false alarm of a missile attack triggered panic for parents and children earlier at a soccer game at the Kahului Community Center. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
A Hawaii civil defense false alarm warning of an imminent ballistic missile attack sent shock waves across the islands Saturday morning, and while some people panicked and others considered ways to survive a nuclear attack it took nearly 40 minutes for most people to get official confirmation of the mistake.
In Kahului, panic ensued at a children soccer game. In Kihei, paddlers and coaches left canoes, tents and other equipment on the beach during a canoe regatta. People screamed and scrambled for safety. At the Target store in Kahului, patrons were told to leave and sought safe shelter elsewhere.
Hawaii officials expressed outrage and called for an investigation. It said: MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. 10 minutes later, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted there was no threat, but that didn reach people who aren on the social media platform.
This alert blasted to cellphones statewide sent frightened residents and visitors scrambling for cover Saturday morning. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
At her home in Kula, the alarm at first confused paraplegic Mahealani Bettencourt, 55, who has been confined to a wheelchair since 2013. But, while waiting for a girlfriend to take her to safety, she packed medication, clothes, canned goods and cases of water to evacuate. As she waited, she tried to remain calm.
was a little scared, she said, you in a wheelchair, you can just get up and drive somewhere. she called a 911 emergency dispatcher, and told me I have nothing to worry about. . . . I broke down a little. . . . I was so grateful that it wasn something that was really happening. coach Chazz Kaaihue was at Kahului Community Center when the alarm sounded off. Children rushed from the bottom of the hill up to their parents, who were screaming to them to get to their cars, he said. Parents ran onto the field and picked up their children to take them away, he said.
sounded off, and all of a sudden everybody was scrambling, he said. think it was less than two minutes where it was really, really chaotic. It like if you see a bunch of ants, and you drop something on them and they scatter. It was really crazy.
Kihei Little League President Brad Nuese (left) and Treasurer Camie Schiffler (right) help Paul Skarbo and Lauren Minkler sign Minkler’s son up to play in the upcoming season Saturday morning. Sign ups went on as scheduled after the “false alarm” alert was broadcast. Saturday. It took 38 minutes to clear up the confusion. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Parents running out, grabbing their kids and telling them to leave all their stuff. Everything was all over the field, people left tents, benches, bags and jumped in their car and dug out,
Waiehu resident Leianna Webb said there were about 200 children and parents on the soccer field.
soon as the phones went off, everyone picked up their chairs and ran. It was like a scene out of a movie, she said.
Webb was sitting with friend Lynette Arcangel, a Lahaina resident. They said their husbands ran to grab their children from the field, and they put them in their cars.
Webb said her husband went to the Maui Interscholastic League paddling regatta in Kihei to pick up their son.
This smartphone screen capture shows the retraction of a false incoming ballistic missile emergency alert sent from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency system Saturday, more than a half hour after the initial scare. Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz says the false alarm about a missile threat was based on “human error” and was “totally inexcusable.” The Maui News / TERRIE ELIKER photo
just goes to show how prepared, or unprepared everyone is and for us all to make a plan, she said.
Mahina Martin, Maui Interscholastic League paddling race director, said the cellphone warnings sounded just before the start of the league paddling regatta at Ka Lae Pohaku in Kihei.
Hundreds of phones went off, beeping loudly and causing everyone to look down at their phones, she said.
Martin estimated there were about 1,000 paddlers and spectators on the beach.
ran to my phone, but before I could reach it the coaches yelled, there a missile attack! People were just screaming. You could see how frightened people were on their faces, she said.
Kihei mom Anna Dee lifts 8 month old son Maddux O’Rourke from his stroller after heading to Kalama Park once the false alarm clearance was issued Saturday morning. Like many folks, she said that when she heard the initial alarm on her phone, she thought it was a weather warning. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Paddling crews left their canoes, tents and equipment all on the beach and headed for shelter. Race officials used the sound system to direct the crowd and provide updates.
had to weigh on the side of caution, so we abandoned our regatta and vacated the beach, Martin said. arranged for the kids to go to any shelter facilities available in Kihei and had the coaches help keep everyone calm. paddling coach Pua Turqueza reported the situation was crazy, especially for the Lanai paddlers away from home.
all from Lanai so we have no family here, she said. some of the kids, it was hard for them to try to reach out to their parents. I just pretty much told them love you because I didn know what was going to happen. said she tried to keep the children calm until they were notified that it was a false alarm.
were so not happy, she said. hope they do something to the person who did this because if they actually saw what the kids faces looked like everyone was just crumbling. dad, what do I do? Praise God it was a false alarm. resident Crystal DeCoite said she was shopping at Target with her mom, Hester Paiva, when the alarm sounded.
were in Target, and they told everyone to leave, she said. guess they would be responsible for whoever is in there. I was thinking Target was good because it all concrete. the store manager declined comment.
After leaving the store,
Paiva said she and her daughter were among about a dozen people running to their cars in the parking lot.
The family members headed up Haleakala Highway to their Upcountry home. They reported seeing some people driving on the median and speeding up the mountain.