1 dead, 1 in critical condition after fall at Ala Moana Center

The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office has identified the man who died from injuries after falling several stories at Ala Moana Center Sunday night.

He was Nicholas Freitas, 21, of Honolulu. Autopsy results revealed Tuesday said his accidental death was due to multiple blunt force injuries.

Freitas and another 21-year-old man were rushed to the hospital after falling at the mauka side of the shopping center above Barnes & Noble. The incident happened at about 9:45 p.m.

Both were hospitalized in critical condition and Freitas later died.

Police say they were apparently leaning against a metal railing before they fell. The case remains under investigation.

Many shoppers were shocked to hear the news, and told us they see people leaning on railings all the time.

“None of us expect that when we’re standing there, or walking into a place that’s as fancy as Ala Moana, that anything like that would ever occur,” said David Kline.

“They do need to take precautions and make it safe for everyone,” said Keoko Johnson. “You just don’t want to hear that. I’m a little worried about going to the mall now.”

Francis Cofran, Ala Moana Center general manager, released the following statement:

We are very saddened by what happened at Ala Moana Center on October 9th. We extend our sincerest condolences to the families of those involved. The safety and welfare of our customers is of the utmost importance: we take that very seriously.

We are cooperating with the Honolulu Police Department as they continue their investigation.

We pressed Ala Moana Center for more about its railings and safety measures, but were told the center could not comment because it’s an “active investigation.”

Some of our questions included: Is the center checking on other railings across the property? What is the required maintenance for railings? How often are they inspected? Is it safe to lean on the railings at Ala Moana Center?

We asked permission to get on property to see for ourselves what was or wasn’t fixed, but were denied access, so we spoke with construction engineer Lance Luke to get perspective on railing safety.

“If you lean on the railing, the average person, the railing should not collapse like that. Definitely, there’s some problem going on, or multiple problems that should be looked into or further investigated,” said Luke.

On Monday afternoon, Luke snapped photos of the scene of the accident, depicting the area taped off. He also observed signs of rusted railings in other parts of the mall.

“This accident; could it have been prevented?” KHON2 asked.

“These kinds of accidents should not happen. It’s either a poor design, poor construction, failure of building materials or a combination of two or three of those things. This accident should never have happened,” Luke responded.

Architect Rex Maximilian says is no regular safety inspection for railings.

“Once a building passes inspection and the inspector deems it safe to open, it’s the responsibility of the owner to see that all life-safety components are kept up-to-date,” he explained.

“The tourists, they’re on vacation. Local people are shopping. They don’t expect a safety issue they should be concerned with,” said Luke. “The developer and owner of the shopping center should look at these safety issues and make it safe for people who come to the shopping center.”

The city’s Department of Planning and Permitting says it is sending an inspector to investigate, and police say they’re also investigating.

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