Here are some of the strange, unusual or just plain odd stories that made headlines in 2012:
Shortly before Christmas 2009, a helicopter carrying four axis deer — three alive, one dead — landed carefully on a Ka‘u ranch.
Its cargo, brought in a metal crate from Maui, was unloaded and replaced with several mouflon sheep for the return trip.
For the men involved, that moment marked the start of a new food source for hunters on the Big Island, long frustrated by state efforts to slaughter game animals considered harmful to native plants.
But for the state and federal officials, who would discover their presence in 2011, the prospect of a new invasive species establishing itself here proved concerning, if not frightening.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigation would later trace their Big Island introduction to a hunter from Mountain View, and a rancher and a pilot from Maui who arranged a sheep-for-deer swap between the two islands.
Each would be fined and sentenced in October to community service helping battle invasive species or educate hunters.
Danny Rocha, the Mountain View hunter who helped arrange the transport, said the three were unfairly targeted by the feds.
“Deer smugglers they called us,” he said. “It was bogus. They were just pulling charges out of a hat.”
You lost what?
The state Department of Taxation said that a contracted courier lost a bag on Oct. 4 containing tax documents filed by businesses and individual taxpayers with the Hilo and Kona state tax offices. The bag was supposed to be delivered to the air cargo terminal at Hilo International Airport for shipment to Honolulu.
“A bag from the back of the truck, I guess, disappeared,” said Department of Taxation spokeswoman Mallory Fujitani. “Upon arrival at the airport, they opened the back of the truck and the bag was missing.”
Fujitani identified the courier company as Security Armored Car & Courier Service of Hawaii. She said the truck was not an armored vehicle, but a truck with a camper top and a latch.
“They’re thinking (the back) might not have been latched,” she said.
An advertisement was placed with the Tribune-Herald to notify affected taxpayers: “A police report was filed immediately and an investigation is in progress.”
“There is a case that has been initiated with (Hilo) Patrol Division,” Police Lt. Greg Esteban of the Hilo Criminal Investigations Section confirmed. “… It does appear that the courier driver was making his pickups, and when he went down to the air cargo, a … bag was missing that contained these documents.”
Fujitani said that checks and forms including taxpayers’ social security numbers were among what went missing. She said the tax department doesn’t put cash in the courier bags.
It cost what?
The University of Hawaii at Hilo in September unveiled a new $700,000 sculpture to serve as a gateway to the campus.
Mary Begier, a UH-Hilo Art Committee member acknowledged that the piece — named “Makali‘i” after the cluster of stars that figures prominently in Hawaiian mythology — was an expensive addition to the campus’ art collection, especially at a time when tuitions have been hiked and classes cut. However, she said, the expenditure was warranted, as the work will help to raise the bar for the university’s arts community, as well as cement the school’s connection to its Hawaii Island roots.
The sculpture and the artist responsible for its creation, New York-based Albert Paley, were championed by UH-Hilo’s former art department chairman, Wayne Miyamoto, who died in the summer of 2010 while he was away on sabbatical.
Project Manager Jonathan Johnson said UH-Hilo had amassed about $1 million in a special fund set aside specifically for public art projects.
Reaction to “Makali‘i” has been mixed since it has been on campus, Begier said.
“I know a lot of people have probably driven by and said, ‘What the heck?’” Begier said. “But it’s also made people gather around. It’s almost like solving a puzzle. Can you find the canoe, or the sphere? Why are those things there?”
In March, KPUA-AM 670 in Hilo became the first radio station to to cancel Rush Limbaugh’s show in response to the conservative commentator’s personal attack on a woman who said her college’s health plan should pay for contraception.
Chris Leonard, the station’s president and general manager, called Limbaugh’s comments about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke “egregious.” Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she testified before Congressional Democrats in favor of their national health care policy that would require her Jesuit school’s health plan to cover birth control.
“This wasn’t framed in political terms,” Leonard said. “Our decision was based on decency and responsibility, and regardless of your views on the issue, his comments were well over the line. It’s a program that we’ve carried for a long time and I know there are a lot of people out there who listen to the program on a regular basis.”
Leonard said that his office has received huge numbers of phone calls and emails criticizing him for dropping the show.
“Suffice it to say, we’ve had hundreds of phone calls over the course of the week. And well over 1,000 emails in that same period of time,” he said.
But, he added, the majority of the contact has been positive in nature.
“Overwhelmingly it’s been in support of our decision,” he said. “Both locally, and from all over the country, and even around the world, as this story has grown.”
Leonard said that Limbaugh’s program came in second in it’s time slot among men ages 25-54 in the latest Arbitron ratings but said that it was “not a huge source of revenue” for the station, which had run the talk show for 16 years.
“The decision-making process on this was not based on ratings or revenue,” he said. “It was based on what we felt was right.
Why don’t we do it in the road?
There were arrests for four incidents of couples giving in to the urge to merge in public on the Big Island in 2012, and two of the incidents involved the same man.
Dylan Trask Whelden, 35, and 33-year-old Margaret Manza, both of Kailua-Kona, were having sex on a sidewalk fronting a Kaiwi Street business building in the old Kona Industrial Area when they were arrested shortly after 4 p.m. on July 16.
A police spokeswoman said Manza allegedly spit and cursed at one of the cops who curtailed the alleged afternoon delight.
Then on Aug. 18, Whelden showed authorities he hadn’t lost his way with the women.
He and 45-year-old Yvette R. Buttefield were engaged in sexual intercourse on the Bayfront soccer field extension on Kamehameha Avenue near Ponahawai Street near downtown Hilo when they were arrested, police said.
A police spokeswoman said that the soccer field is considered a county park and other members of the public were using the facility.
Not to be outdone, 36-year-old 36-year-old Jassen Kahoohuli Bento and 35-year-old Jeanette Trumper were caught allegedly having sex in front of a homeless shelter and mental health clinic in the old Kona Industrial Area on Oct 7.
Finally, on Nov. 17, 30-year-old Ernie Primo of Wailuku, Maui, and 22-year-old Sarah Levi of Kailua-Kona were arrested for allegedly getting busy on the ball field of Hualalai Academy in Kealakehe, giving a whole new meaning to the term “play ball.”
All were charged with open lewdness, a petty misdemeanor.
Here comes the boom
While public sex may raise some eyebrows, the true climax to the weirdness came on the evening of Dec. 3, when an apparently impromptu fireworks display over Hilo Bay startled some and puzzled others.
As it turns out, the four-minute aerial show was the kicker to a private post-inauguration shindig for Mayor Billy Kenoi at the Wainaku Executive Center.
Neither the media nor the public was notified of the celebratory political fireworks.
“I know they got all the required permits,” Kenoi said the following day. “They notified all adjoining properties within a 1,000-square-foot radius.”
The short but spectacular show frightened some who heard the explosions but didn’t see the fireworks.
“I thought it might have been an airplane crash or something,” said Richard Taber. “I felt it first because of the vibration because of where I live. I live about two miles away, but I could feel it. Then, when I looked in that direction, I saw blue flashes in the sky, probably over Bayfront where they supposedly set it off.”
One letter to the editor described the event as a “coronation,” dubbed Kenoi “King Billy” and complained: “Unfortunately, the mere commoners in our normally peaceful Wainaku community were literally shaken out of their quietude by this pretentious display of arrogant disdain.”