Colorado residents in Hawaii react to false alarm missile launch warning

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DENVER -- Panic hit Hawaii Saturday morning as residents and visitors were warned of an inbound ballistic missile threat to the island.

The notification was sent to cell phones telling residents to seek shelter immediately. About 40 minutes later, officials said it was a false alarm.

Some Colorado residents were there and spoke to FOX31 about their terrifying experience.

The alert told people to seek shelter right away and it wasn't a drill.

"It was a terrifying moment, overwhelming and sad. It kind of puts you in a position to wonder what you would do in your final moments of life," Jeff Hunt, VP of Public Policy at Colorado Christian University, said.

Jeff and his wife are on vacation in Maui celebrating their 10-year wedding anniversary. The blissful vacation quickly turned into sheer terror for the couple.

"People were calling loved ones, people were calling people to tell them where their 'will' was, to say final goodbyes, praying, people crying," said Hunt.

The two took shelter with about a dozen others in the stock room at the Maui Aquarium.

38 minutes passed before a second message was sent out letting people know it was a false alarm.

"If you could imagine, that type of a fear and panic for 38 minutes, not sure what’s going on, trying to get a hold of loved ones," said Hunt.

Hotel guests across the Hawaiian islands were told to hide in basements. Meantime in Honolulu, college students were running for their lives.

Longmont native Andre Apodaca, a senior at the University of Hawaii was alone in his apartment on the phone with his parents.

"The intention of the call was kind of, say my goodbyes and if this was it, then I wanted to be talking to them as it happened, so it was really terrifying," said Apodaca.

Apodaca grabbed his roommates dog and took shelter inside a bathroom. He says because of the current tension with the United States and North Korea, he wasn't surprised by a potential attack. But, he quickly learned he wasn't prepared for this to happen.

"I’m just worried for the people on the island, getting another notification like this and if it did happen would we be sitting there wondering, is this another human error or is this really happening?" said Apodaca.

Hawaiian officials held a press conference later Saturday, to talk about the human error, and how they're going to keep a similar false alarm from happeneing again.

"They’ve got to do some better training, some education here, not just in Hawaii. If this is a threat we’re going to face across America we’ve got to know better what to do. I think everyone was kind of caught off guard," said Apodaca.

Officials say the mistake happened during what's called a shift-change drill that takes place three times a day at the emergency command post. An employee had pressed the wrong button by mistake. Officials say a new procedure will be put in place to prevent a mistake like this from happening again.


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