Surveillance Video of Arson at Kahului Tesoro Presented at Trial
A clerk and an ice delivery man testified on Tuesday in the jury trial of a Kahului man accused of setting a fire at the Tesoro Gas Express in Kahului last year.
Brandon Oania, 33, of Kahului pleaded not guilty to the charge of first degree arson for the Jan. 24, 2016 incident in which both the defendant and his father were arrested.
A police investigation revealed that a white SUV with two male suspects arrived at the station at about 11:12 p.m. Surveillance video from the gas station shows the defendant’s father, Joseph Oania entering the store and return to the pump, according to testimony presented in court.
Witness, Dohrie Gaspar was working at the Puʻunēnē Avenue gas station along with another female clerk when the incident occurred.
Deputy Prosecutor Carson Tani questioned Gaspar about what she observed on that particular night. Gaspar, who is a 10 year employee of the station said there was a male individual who entered the store and paid $5 in gas just before the fire started.
“He walked right in, dropped off the money and left,” said Gaspar. Both the prosecution and defense referred to the man was the defendant’s father, Joseph Oania.
Gaspar said the ice delivery man then ran into the store and told her to shut off the gas pump. That’s when she said she “looked up and saw the fire outside.” After engaging the emergency shut off, Gaspar said she could see a “big flame outside on Pump 10,” and she proceeded to call 9-1-1.
Upon redirect questioning from the defense, attorney John Parker asked Gaspar if she saw the customer buy or take a lighter. Gaspar said she did not, but agreed that lighters were displayed for sale and were within 6 to 12 inches away from one of the store’s two registers. The defense also noted an 11 second gap in the video surveillance during the transaction.
The court also received testimony from Wade Alao, an employee with Kīhei Ice, who has worked as a driver and delivery person for the company for about 15 years. Alao said he traditionally works 10 to 15 hour shifts and was just starting his deliveries when the incident occurred.
He testified that a man, who he described as heavy-set and chubby with dark skin and around 50 years of age, entered the convenience store portion of the gas station and passed his delivery truck on the way out.
Alao said the man “just walked out and gave me this up-to-no-good look.” Alao described the look as “out of place,” and said the man proceeded directly to his car, which was described as a white SUV parked at the pump closest to Wākea Street. Alao said he also observed the man using a squeegee “a lot.”
Upon further questioning, Alao testified that he also observed another person who was about to come out of the passenger side of the SUV at one point. Compared to the first individual, Alao described the second individual as young, around his 30’s with hair closely shaven, light skin color, and a slimmer and taller build than the first.
He also testified that he saw the second individual take a water bottle and set it down by his feet near the rear driver’s side tire, close to the gas tank. “The way the light hit it,” Alao said, caught his attention. “It was something like when you mix oil and water and you have that rainbow effect,” said Alao of the water bottle contents. “In my head, I thought the bottle would melt if you put gas in it.”
A medium sized water container was presented before the court as evidence, but Alao could not say if the bottle was the same size as the one he observed during the incident.
Alao said he carried on with his delivery by filling the outside freezer when he heard someone yell. “I saw the SUV leaving the area and I saw flames coming from the back,” Alao testified.
When asked to describe the fire, Alao said that it’s “like when you make a trail of gas and light it… like the movies,” he said. “The gas pump imploded and the handle blew off.”
“I thought I was going to die. I thought everything was just going to blow,” said Alao.
Alao said he looked towards the store to see if the ladies within were going to come out, and went inside to tell them to turn off the pumps. Despite admitting that he was concerned for his own safety and possibly risked his life in the process, he said he proceeded to grab a fire extinguisher and put out the fire by putting the extinguisher nozzle into the pump, “just hoping for the best.”
“I knew those ladies for years,” said Alao.
The trial resumes at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2017, before Second Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Loo.
Brandon Oania was also arrested on suspicion of arson for an incident reported on Feb. 5, 2016 at Maui Oil Company on Hobron Avenue in Kahului. The business did not sustain any damage from the incident.