‘Move, Move!’ Hawaii beachgoers scatter as ‘posh’ hotel’s railing falls from above

The Moana Surfrider Resort & Spa, a self-proclaimed “beachfront luxury” resort owned by Marriott, soars above Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. The hotel has a 120-year history, known for the patronage of celebrities like Amelia Earhart, Walter Chrysler, Joe DiMaggio, George Burns, Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, according to Luxe Beat Magazine.

But for hotel guests and beachgoers on Jan. 30, the Surfrider was the scene of disaster, they told news outlets. That afternoon, a fifth-floor railing in the hotel’s Tower Wing came loose and broke off the balcony, plummeting towards the sand below, officials told news outlets.

“There was a woman directly under, so we were all screaming, ‘Move, Move!’” Nico Staehle, a student at the University of Hawaii and a witness, told KHON. “It was happening in slow motion, she luckily got out of the way.”

Honolulu’s Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services told the outlet that they treated two people for injuries when they arrived. One of the people treated sustained their injury while escaping the falling railing, officials said.

The Moana Surfrider is currently investigating the incident. In a statement to Hawaii News Now, the hotel director of public relations for the Waikiki Collection, Dara Young, said:

“We are looking into an incident that occurred involving a balcony in our Tower Wing. We take this matter very seriously.”

The resort did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Feb. 2.

Guests of the Surfrider described shock and terror.

Joe and Cindy DeBello told Hawaii News Now they were at the hotel celebrating their 40th anniversary with their family when they saw, from their room, the railing fall off the balcony.

“We’re still reeling from it and trying to make sense of everything,” Cindy DeBello told the outlet. “And I mean, we were so shaken up, I was trembling after it happened; I mean, (my husband) couldn’t even sleep last night.”

“With a resort as posh as this, you would think they would have maintenance,” hotel guest Jackie Nguyen told the outlet. “I’m sure the ocean causes deterioration faster, but still, they need to make sure that the guests’ safety is not compromised by having more inspections.”

Lance Luke, the owner of Construction Management Inspection in Hawaii, told KITV that the underlying issue is likely not isolated to one railing, and the hotel needs to test all its railings.

Luke estimates the railing that fell probably started rusting five to eight years ago.

“It’s not structurally sound and I’m pretty sure the other railings in that building have similar conditions,” he told the outlet.

He estimates the cost to replace just one railing is $20,000 to $30,000.

For locals, Surfrider’s railing incident is history repeating itself. In 2016, a railing at the Ala Moana Center broke off and fell three stories, killing one man and permanently injuring a second.

The man who was injured now uses a wheelchair.

According to Hawaii News Now, hotel staff have zip-tied balcony doors shut to stop guests from going on the balconies while a structural engineer conducts inspections.

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