Public Safety & Homeland Security

Man Suffers Massive Heart Attack During False Alert

'This whole thing just took him over the edge. There’s no doubt. The stress brought on a heart attack.'

by Kristen Consillio, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser / January 16, 2018

Sean Shields suffered a massive heart attack minutes after saying his last goodbyes over the phone to his 10-year-old daughter and grown son following the false missile alert.

Shields, 51, started violently throwing up while at Sandy Beach on East Oahu and then drove himself, along with his girlfriend Brenda Reichel, who is disabled, to the Straub Hawaii Kai Family Health Center where she says he collapsed in the waiting room. Emergency medical technicians were able to perform CPR and transport him to Straub Medical Center, where he had emergency surgery and four stents inserted into his heart, she said.

“This whole thing just took him over the edge. There’s no doubt. The stress brought on a heart attack. What they did was so harmful,” said Reichel, adding that it felt like he flatlined for five to 10 minutes — long enough to get brain damage. “The doctors even agreed that the stress from the event did this. They told him he died. They told me he wasn’t breathing and he had no heartbeat. He had no heart problems ever. I’m just so upset at this.”

Miraculously, Shields survived and is recovering from his traumatic ordeal, she said.

“He’s talking, he’s lucid and cognitive,” Reichel said. “Thanking God for miracles. God is good.”

Honolulu attorney Sam King, a friend of Reichel, said he is investigating the matter and will make a decision shortly on whether there’s a claim to be made against the state or city.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said there were no injuries or accidents related to the ensuing panic and confusion following the false alarm. However, the Honolulu Police Department’s 911 dispatch system was overwhelmed with more than 5,000 telephone calls, “more than they could ever handle,” Caldwell said at a press conference Saturday. The state took 38 minutes to issue a cellphone notice that the missile attack warning issued at 8:07 a.m. was an error. Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said about 2,500 callers to 911 could not get through to emergency lines.

“Mayor said no injuries from panic of bomb alert — total lie. My son had to get stitches from a falling light fixture,” Aiea resident John Nakauye told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, describing how he huddled with three children in a room after informing them that a missile was on its way to Hawaii. “It fell as I placed the mattress to cover the window.”

Nakauye said his 10-year-old son was seriously injured on his leg in the scramble to keep his family safe.

“It’s very traumatic for him. I mean, it was a pretty bad cut. Had we not had this false warning … we wouldn’t have been in that situation to huddle in the room just trying to protect ourselves as best as we can,” he said. “I was extremely infuriated when I read that (there were no injuries). I’m the one dealing with having to take care of this medically and financially now.”

Caldwell said the only incident he heard of occurred when a driver damaged his golf cart following the alert.

“Whatever the government is saying, this has caused major stress to everyone here,” Reichel said. “Sean’s life is never going to be the same now. This has been so horrendous. He told his daughter, ‘I love you.’ He told his son, ‘I love you,’ and he told me, ‘I love you.’ He thought he was never going to see his kids again and this is it, we were all going to die.”

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