Ala Moana Center begins railing repairs as lawmakers consider mandatory inspections

Work began Monday at Ala Moana Center to replace rusty railings five months after a man fell to his death and another was seriously injured.

In October, two 21-year-old men fell several stories on the mauka side of the shopping center above Barnes and Noble.

According to attorney Rick Fried, Macroy Nagato was leaning on the railing at Ala Moana when it collapsed, causing him to fall 20 feet. Nicholas Freitas fell 50 feet and died.

The Honolulu City Council is now considering a requirement that all railings be checked. If the proposal becomes law, Oahu buildings that are three stories or more will be required to hire a licensed professional to conduct periodic inspections of its railings.

Condominium owner Lynne Matusow with the Honolulu Tower Association of Apartment Owners is against it.

“If the building is doing the work, they shouldn’t have to pay someone else to come in and double do the work. I think it’s an overreach, and it’s because of what happened at Ala Moana Center,” said Matusow.

Matusow argues that requiring a professional to inspect railings is an unnecessary expense. “Most of us are doing this work already,” she said.

Matusow says their condo association looked into hiring an outside professional, and “we were told it would cost $10,000 for each scaffold. For us, that’s at least $160,000, plus the price of the engineer and all those other things, and we need the money for major repairs we need to do now.”

Building inspector Lance Luke supports the measure, and says it’s “about time” railing inspections become a requirement.

“I totally understand their position where it’s going to cost extra money, but the problem is, you can’t put a value on someone’s life,” Luke said. “If these people were to go with me and look at all the buildings I checked, I think they’d change their minds. Of course, I’m a condo owner investor. I don’t want to spend any extra money, but I understand the problem. If they saw the buildings falling apart like I did, I think they’d change their minds.”

As for Nagato, he faces a slow recovery at Craig Hospital, a rehabilitation center in Colorado.

Fried said “his condition is still unstable. He’s making slow progress. They’re hopeful he can come back home maybe as early as June. He has a 2-year-old and he’s married.”

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