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Man severely burned in ash dump

Star Bulletin

March 17, 2007

A landfill worker is in critical condition following a botched release of coal waste

By Alexandre Da Silva
adasilva@starbulletin.com

News PhotoA 41-year-old Nanakuli man is in critical condition after hot ash from a dump truck burned 80 percent of his body last week in an accident at a private landfill in Waianae, his attorney said yesterday.

Hale Malaki Jr., a worker at PVT Land Co., which owns the landfill, was directing the truck to a dump site at about 6 a.m. March 5 when the ash was released, sweeping him to the ground and causing second- and third-degree burns to his body, except for his face and feet.

"It was supposed to come out like wet, damp sand," attorney Wayne Kekina said of the ash, burned waste that must be cooled to ambient temperature before being hauled away. "But in this case it came out like liquefied, hot ash."

Malaki -- who has a 32-year-old wife, Landan, and is the father of Matthew, 11, and David, 6 -- is at Straub Clinic & Hospital's burn unit, Kekina said. Four surgeries on Malaki to remove dead skin and lower pressure from swelling are being covered by workers' compensation insurance, he said.

Kekina is investigating which companies were involved in the incident and plans to file a lawsuit. He suspects the ash's temperature was not lowered.

The dump truck was being operated by Paling & Son's Trucking and Equipment Rentals, Kekina said. Company officials did not return a phone message yesterday. The ash came from AES Hawaii Inc.'s coal-burning power plant in Campbell Industrial Park, according to Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health. Messages left at AES also were not returned.

Employers are required to contact the state Department of Labor if a worker is badly injured or dies on the job, said department spokesman James Hardway. He said he was not aware of any reports about the accident filed by AES, though he acknowledged that some cases appear in the media before being investigated.

"I don't know that an investigation has started," Hardway said.

AES's Oahu plant can produce 180 megawatts of power daily, according to Peter Rosegg, spokesman for Hawaiian Electric Co. HECO buys about 10 percent of its 1,700-megawatt electrical supply from AES, he said.

E-mail messages and telephone calls made after business hours to parent company AES Corp., based in Arlington, Va., were not returned. The company owns 123 power plants around the globe, including in Asia, Europe, South America and North America.

A receptionist at PVT declined to comment on the incident and said company officials would not be available to answer questions until Monday.

Okubo said PVT has not had any violations since getting a state permit to operate its landfill in 1985.