Roughly 100 people have been confirmed to have perished in the recent wildfire in Maui, with countless more still unaccounted for. And new reports suggest that this tragedy could have been avoided – at least to some degree – had the power company simply shut off electricity when their power lines were being snapped like twigs by high winds. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio: Roughly a hundred people have been confirmed to have perished in the recent wildfire in Maui with countless more still unaccounted for and new reports suggest that this tragedy could have been avoided, should have been avoided, at least to some degree, had the power company simply shut off electricity when their power lines were being snapped like twigs by high winds. This is, you know, we’ve lived through a lot of catastrophe. We’re in Hurricane Ville right here. How many hurricanes have you lived through?

Farron Cousins: Oh God. Seven, eight at this point.

Mike Papantonio: I’ve lost contact. This is worse than anything we’ve ever lived through. I can’t even, you know, people were escaping to the water saying, I can live, if I can stay in this water, they’re disappearing. We don’t even know where they are. All types of horror stories coming out of this. At this point, there’s more than hundred deaths that they know of. And this was all avoidable. Lay this case out, it’s a disturbing case.

Farron Cousins: Yeah. For anybody who’s not aware of the situation prior to the fire, California had been going through, not storms, just very, very intense winds. Almost, you know, like a hurricane minus the rain. And those winds came through in very dry conditions, you know, the heat has been off the charts just like most of the world. So we’ve got dry conditions and the wind snaps the power lines. The photos before the fire are overwhelming. You see all the power lines across the roads, residents telling stories of hearing all the snapping, it sounded like thunder. But it was just the power lines falling down. So at that point, you’ve got electrical cords from the power lines all over the place in dry brush, just waiting to start a fire. And these company or Hawaiian Electric did not shut off the power.

Mike Papantonio: They have a parent company, but Hawaiian Electric is a co-op. The interesting thing about this, there’s some great invest, I think you have private lawyers doing a great job, Sergio Rufo. Sergio Rufo is a very talented claimant’s lawyer. He’s on Honolulu, but he has the ability to put people on the ground and do investigations. The investigations are finding witnesses. Okay. The witnesses are saying, look, there’s no question here. One part, you know, in diverse parts of where this fire converged, witnesses are saying, I saw the poll snap. I saw the first sparks. Now the system after the first sparks is supposed to stop. And it probably worked to that degree, but they had a system that they should have been total shut down. It’s called a public power shutoff plan. Most people, most states and counties and, you know, utility organizations have this in place.

They have it in place because they saw what happened in California in 2018 where a hundred people died because you had a bunch of incompetent boobs running both government and running the power companies. And so, you know, hundreds, hundreds of people in that situation, well, thousands actually lost property. But in this situation, they were put on notice. They knew the problem. California was right there. They saw, they understood it. There was even, you’re gonna find, there was even discussion about it at the meetings where the power company says, shouldn’t we adjust to this? They didn’t adjust, did they?

Farron Cousins: No. No. And the power company even admits already via spokesperson. They say, listen, if we had shut the power off, so clearly they knew that it was an option, the poor firefighters, they wouldn’t have been able to access the water because that runs on electricity. But the question is, okay, but had you turned the power off, we probably wouldn’t have needed the water to put the fires out that your power lines caused in the first place.

Mike Papantonio: You know what’s gonna happen here? It’s the same thing that happened in California. They’re gonna say, oh, we’re gonna investigate it. Okay. Right off the bat, we start hearing discussion about, well, there were some arsonists. Okay, let’s assume there was. In this situation, the experts say that there were diverse strike points and those diverse strike points converged and that created this problem. So don’t, they did the same thing in California, you know, PG&E the power company there said, well, no, this wasn’t us, this was arsonists. We’re gonna do an investigation. You know what happened in California? You had a couple of leaders, Steve Skikos out there, wonderful lawyer, that did investigations and found out what was going on. You got Sergio Rufo there in Honolulu that my prediction is we’re gonna find out more from him than we are from the government.

But at any rate, this case to me is critically important because it’s a classic case of a government, a quasi government. You understand? Let’s say that the power company themselves didn’t make the decision. If you’re government, don’t you go to them and say, you’re gonna do this, or you’re not gonna do business with us? Don’t you do that?

Farron Cousins: Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio: But in this case, it’s even more complicated. They had one of the most sophisticated warning systems in the world for tsunamis that, you know, they were concerned about tsunamis. So they had an extremely sophisticated system and they never used it.

Farron Cousins: No, they didn’t. And I think you bring up a great point here, you know, with California as the leading example, what happened in California, because of the work of people like Skikos, is California then did go and they amended their laws. They changed the thing. They put the action plan in place to cut the power when these events happened. But that wouldn’t have happened had the lawyers not come in and held these folks accountable. If there is no accountability, which at this point only comes from the lawsuits, they won’t change. It’s the same story throughout all of corporate America. Without the lawsuits, they’ll never change.

Mike Papantonio: We’re gonna take the lead from Sergio Rufo and work with him on this. He’s got an incredible experience level, great history, but my prediction is that private lawyers like Sergio Rufo are going to find out what really happened here through eyewitnesses. Hopefully do an ad campaign. Say, if you’re a witness to this, give me a call. We wanna know what happened. That’s what happened in California. It wasn’t this investigation that was done by the government. I can promise you that. Farron, thanks for joining me. Okay.

Farron Cousins: Thank you.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.