Hawaii man who sent missile alert says he's devastated by mistake

ASSOCIATED PRESS           A screen shot of the bogus missile alert sent to cell phones across Hawaii on Jan. 13

ASSOCIATED PRESS A screen shot of the bogus missile alert sent to cell phones across Hawaii on Jan. 13

Former Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee who had sent an alert across all cellular networks on January 13 about an incoming missile said he was "100 percent sure" the attack was real.

Following the event, the employee was sacked and Vern Miyagi, who oversaw the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, took responsibility and resigned.

He hopes that by speaking out, he can help prevent a similar incident from happening in the 49 other states.

"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.

"I didn't hear the word 'exercise, '" he said.

The man known as the "button pusher" says he thought Hawaii was in danger. He went on his computer and used a pull-down menu to send out the alert.

A preliminary federal investigation into the incident released last week said the mix-up happened after a drill was conducted during a shift transition at the agency.

As soon as he realized his error, the man says he 'just wanted to crawl under a rock'. Unlike previous exercises, this one was unannounced and happened when there was no supervisor present, he said.

Testing of the alert system began in November and protocols were constantly changing, he said.

Officials said the man refused to cooperate with state or federal investigations beyond providing a written statement.

But the employee's lawyer, Michael Green, said his client is an agency scapegoat. "They were not ready and they were not programmed to do what they were supposed to do when this happened".

Miyagi accepted full responsibility for the incident and the actions of his employees, Logan said. A third employee was also suspended without pay.

Logan said he appointed Brig. Gen. Bruce Oliveira of the Hawaii National Guard.

A second emergency management employee had to step in to send the cancellation alert after the first employee "froze", officials said. There's been problems with the procedures and the equipment and lack of training I think that the military should handle this, not the state.

The fired worker says he plans to file an appeal to try and get his job back, and he's considering filing a lawsuit against the state for defamation.

"It seemed very real from the start, and the message that I heard was. We simply need to identify the problems in order to fix them - not just in Hawaii, but anywhere else where they may exist".

The fallout over the incident didn't stop with the former worker.

That statement lines up with what State officials have told the media.

He said he then missed more than a week of work due to stress-related illness after learning death threats had been made against him to agency officials.

Oliviera said the employee had been working at HEMA for 10 years and had a history of work performance issues. He also had his hearing tested (no issues there, he said).

Latest News