Man says he’s devastated about sending missile alert


Associated Press

HONOLULU

A former Hawaii state worker who sent a false missile alert last month said Friday he’s devastated about causing panic but was “100 percent sure” at the time that the attack was real.

The man in his 50s spoke to reporters on the condition that he not be identified because he fears for his safety after receiving threats.

He says an on-duty call that came in Jan. 13 didn’t sound like a drill. However, state officials say other workers clearly heard the word “exercise” repeated several times.

“Immediately afterward, we find out it was a drill, and I was devastated. I still feel very badly about it,” he said.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency fired him after the incident.

The man’s superiors said they knew for years that he had problems performing his job. The worker had mistakenly believed drills for tsunami and fire warnings were actual events, and colleagues were not comfortable working with him, the state said.

His supervisors counseled him but kept him for a decade in a position that had to be renewed each year.

The ex-worker disputed that, saying he wasn’t aware of any performance problems.

While starting a Saturday shift at the emergency operations center in a former bunker in Honolulu’s Diamond Head crater on Jan. 13, the man said, a co-worker took a phone call over the U.S. Pacific Command secure line that sounded like a real warning, he said.

“When the phone call came in, someone picked up the receiver instead of hitting speaker phone so that everyone could hear the message,” he said.

The man said he didn’t hear the beginning of the message that said, “exercise, exercise, exercise.”

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