On Friday, a retaining wall collapsed in Kailua, Hawai’i, causing one fatality and three other serious injuries. The victim who died in the accident has been identified as Sione Veikoso, a 22-year-old offensive lineman at Brigham Young University.
The incident occurred at Akiikii Square around noon. The athlete worked with several others on a 15-foot retaining wall when it suddenly collapsed. The impact of the collapse killed him and left several workers trapped inside the debris.
A sudden collapse
Emergency crews arrived on the scene to find several people trapped in the rubble. By then, several bystanders had tried to use a mini excavator to reach the victims before firefighters took over.
The firefighters then joined with the locals and used hand tools to extricate the four men trapped in the rubble. The debris was described as a mixture of heavy blue gravel and red earth.
“It was a very difficult area to get there to clear the debris, so personnel worked together, cleared the debris and were able to get to the first two trapped people,” HFD Captain Kevin Mokulehua said in a statement.
Veikoso was immediately pronounced dead at the scene. Meanwhile, the three others were transported to a nearby hospital in serious but stable condition. Two minors were also present at the time of the collapse but were unharmed.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victim who succumbed to his injuries and the homeowner,” he said. “These situations are very difficult.”
The homeowner of the property where the collapse occurred has requested privacy during this difficult time and has expressed their condolences to the family of the deceased and prayed for the recovery of the injured workers.
They also explained that they had hired a construction company to repair a stone wall at the back of the home. The construction company involved in the project has not yet commented on the incident.
One of the homeowner’s neighbors, a 90-year-old man, spoke positively of her, stating that she was a “rule-abiding person.” The cause of the collapse is currently unknown, but the neighbor said that it was likely that the collapse was due to the recent rain, which may have loosened the ground.
The Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division is currently investigating the incident.
A quiet cul-de-sac
Many in the community are shocked by the tragedy, with some describing the area as a “quiet cul-de-sac.” The BYU Football team and their coach, Kalani Sitake, expressed their grief at Veikoso’s death and offered condolences to his family.
“We are extremely saddened to learn of the tragic death of one of our brothers, Sione Veikoso,” wrote Sitake on his Twitter account. “His passing is heartbreaking to all of us. We offer our deepest condolences and prayers to his family as we share in their grief.”
We are extremely saddened to learn of the tragic death of one of our brothers, Sione Veikoso. His passing is heartbreaking to all of us. We offer our deepest condolences and prayers to his family as we share in their grief. Our love for you is forever, Sione! https://t.co/F2xSEynQpM
— Kalani F Sitake (@kalanifsitake) December 31, 2022
The offensive lineman played in one game for BYU as a redshirt freshman in 2022 after transferring from Arizona State in 2021. Veikoso also had football-playing cousins – Sione Kava, a defensive tackle at Oregon from 2018-2019, and Isi Sofole, a running back at Cal from 2009-2012.
Veikoso’s family has described him as a “great boy” with a gentle personality who showed “altruism.” Veikoso was known to serve a full-time mission in Brazil from 2018 to 2020 for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before beginning his college career.
Family members said that Veikoso worked as a teenager to financially support his single mother, who passed away seven years ago. Veikoso is survived by two sisters, Mele and Sanimata, and a brother who shares his name.