Wednesday, 04 October 2017 20:03

Hawaii Auto Body Shop Owner Still Reeling from Losses after Fire

Written by Tiffany DeMasters, West Hawaii Today
A warehouse that housed Diamond Auto Workz in the New Industrial Kohanaiki Park was damaged during a fire on Sept. 11. A warehouse that housed Diamond Auto Workz in the New Industrial Kohanaiki Park was damaged during a fire on Sept. 11. Tiffany DeMasters/West Hawaii Today

A warehouse fire in New Industrial Kohanaiki Park has left the business owner baffled and frustrated.

About 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 11, the Hawaii Fire Department responded to Diamond Auto Workz on Hulikoa Drive. Upon arrival, the northern half of the structure was engulfed in flames. According to a Hawaii Police Department report, when crews arrived on scene, the front gate of the property appeared to have been forcibly removed.


The gate looked as if it had been rammed from the inside out, police said.


Tools, equipment and at least four cars were destroyed in the blaze. A company truck was also taken from the scene.


Business owner Blake Hornbacher went to the warehouse that morning. He said the gate, which is normally locked during non-business hours, was ripped off. Firefighters on scene told him they found the gate in the road.


“When I got up there at 5 a.m., they were still trying to put it out,” Hornbacher said of the fire.


Diamond Auto Workz is an auto body, paint, detail and towing service. The warehouse was divided into three bays. Hornbacher said someone broke in and started a fire in the first bay---the paint booth.


Between the equipment, tools, cars and warehouse, Hornbacher estimates it is a $1 million loss.


“It’s someone I know, guarantee,” Hornbacher said.


The truck stolen still hasn’t been recovered.


“I heard it’s in Puna---I hear it’s here or there, but when I try to follow up, it leads to nothing,” Hornbacher said of his stolen truck. “I think it’s just stories.”


Hornbacher said he feels like police haven’t really done much about it.


Police Maj. Robert Wagner said the case is continuing and authorities have deemed the circumstances to be suspicious. A detective in the Criminal Investigations Division is investigating it.


Hornbacher and his crew members are still operating out of a different site in the industrial park where they’re doing small repairs and selling used tires. The company still offers the tow service.


Hornbacher said he would like to get back to the warehouse, but it will cost a lot to do so. He is also trying to work with insurance companies to see if they will cover any of the damage.


The office for the business Hawaiian Trailers is adjoined to the warehouse that burned down. The morning of the fire, onsite manager David Hess said the power and water went out.


Water was restored to his part of the building. However, he has been without power. 


Hess said he hopes the bays are fixed, and Hornbacher returns to the lot.


“I miss those guys running around,” he said.


Hess said people in the industrial park care about one another.


“No one wants to see Blake like this,” he said. “He doesn’t realize how much his friends appreciate him.”


Business neighbors are looking at ways to raise money for Hornbacher.


“He’s really a good guy,” Hess said. “One way or another, we’ll get him back here.”


A GoFundMe account was set up to help Hornbacher get his business back up and running. Those interested in donating can visit www.gofundme.com/diamond-autoworker-crew-help-funds.


We thank West Hawaii Today for reprint permission.

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