By Wendy Osher
Autopsies on Maui will soon be moved from a cramped corner on Mahalani Street to a new $4.5 million Forensic Facility on Wili Pa Loop in Wailuku. The new facility has the capacity of holding up to 60 bodies in two separate walk-in refrigerators, compared to the current location at the Maui Memorial Medical Center which only has four holding drawers for the deceased.
With 180-220 post-mortem examinations conducted on Maui each year, forensic pathologists and medical examiners “run out of space all the time,” according to Assistant Chief Larry Hudson, with the Maui Police Department’s Support Services Bureau.
A lavender viewing room was constructed at the new facility for grieving families tasked with identifying a deceased person. In addition to providing privacy for the living and dignity for the dead, the room is also equipped with a glass partition that preserves evidence for pathologists working to identify cause of death.
Aside from the function as a forensic facility, the building is also home to the Police Department’s Crime Lab, and houses training classrooms for both recruits and officers already on the force. A secure microwave network allows police to communicate directly with the main Wailuku Police station located about two miles away.
The Crime Lab serves as the Police Department’s evidence processing area. It’s where fingerprint preservation takes place, castings are formed for investigations, and preliminary evidence analysis is made.
The forensic holding area runs on a completely separate heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system to preserve air quality and working conditions on both sides.
The building was previously occupied by Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii, which has since moved to Waikapu. Because of it’s previous use as a lab, the building renovation cost of $1.25 million was less than that of prospective alternate sites. Work included the construction of a special lye-lime catchment system, purchase of a CAT generator, and installation of indoor ventilation units.
Other costs included $2.9 million for the purchase of the building, and $250,000 for upgrades required by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
According to A.C. Hudson, the new building will be ready for use at the end of February. Occupancy is pending water tie-in work as well as a Certificate of Occupancy from the County of Maui.