July 1, 2006 09:23 PM
(KHNL) - On March 14, the Kaloko Dam on Kauai broke open, unleashing hundreds of millions of gallons of water.
A lawsuit filed by the families of seven people who died in the resulting flood accuses landowner Jimmy Pflueger of illegally making changes to the reservoir.
"Our information indicates this grading was done by Mr. Pflueger or through his representatives without any permits," said Rick Fried, attorney for the victim's families.
According to the lawsuit filed in state courts on Kauai, two months before the breach Pflueger admitted to knowing water had been seeping from the Kaloko reservoir.
"He testified that he was aware that there was seepage from the Kaloko Dam and that is a very major problem according to our experts which can undermine the integrity of the dam," Fried said.
In a written statement, Pflueger's attorney said all the facts surrounding the case are not in yet.
Attorney Bill McCorriston said the state was aware of safety risks at Kaloko Dam in 1982 but did not share that information with Pflueger when he purchased the property in 1987.
Fried says three months after the breach, the victims' families are still coping with their grief.
"They're crushed, everybody that was close to them on the property plus their daughter and the grandson were lost," Fried said.
The suit says the flood might never have happened if Pflueger had followed proper procedures for maintaining the dam.
"This dam was built back in 1890 as an earthen dam and had survived all sorts of weather and other problems until what we have asserted was illegal grading," Fried said.