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Hilo Information Update for December 24th, 2019

Search continues for missing toddler Benjamin (Benny) Rapoza continues into a fourth straight day.


Numerous community members including family members continue with their search for the 6-year-old who was last seen Friday afternoon (December 20th).

The Hawaii Police Department (HPD) and the Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) are continuing to conduct their search for a missing toddler Benjamin (Benny) Rapoza in the Keaukaha area, who was last seen Friday Afternoon (December 20th).


The initial call came at 5:34 pm Friday evening and HPD officers from South Hilo Patrol, Criminal Investigative Division (CID) Area I and II, HFD crews from the Waiakea and Central Fire Stations along with Battalion 1, United States Coast Guard (USCG), Rangers from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, K-9 Search Dog, and Team Adam from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children responded to Keaukaha, where they're currently conducting an ocean, land, and air search as of Monday (December 23rd).


HPD is concerned for Rapoza's welfare, as he been diagnosed with Nonverbal Autism and was last seen only wearing a diaper. Rapoza is being described as local, standing about 3-feet tall, weighing about 50 pounds, slim build, with short brown hair, brown eyes, and a fair complexion.


HPD Captain Greg Esteban said in an interview with the media, Rapoza went missing after his family visited a home in Keaukaha. Esteban added that there were indications that Rapoza was in the back of the property, near the water. Family members added that Benny is unfamiliar with the area, as their home is in Ainaloa, Puna. They also added that he is able to respond to his name and to flashing lights.


An all-out search, involving multiple agencies, including family members, volunteers from the community and few members of the HIRSC team, was conducted on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday all throughout the Keaukaha area with minimal results. However, everyone involved was not giving up hope and continuing with their search on Tuesday. Volunteers had broadened their search and continued searching through the dense forest in the Keaukaha area. During their search, volunteers and family members were playing one of Benny's favorite tunes, the theme song from the popular Nickelodeon show 'Spongebob Squarepants'. Although conditions were not favorable over the weekend, that did not dampen the search efforts as no stone will be left unturned during this search.


Volunteers and family members continued with their search into the evening hours of Monday and ask everyone in the Keaukaha area and in Hilo to be on the lookout for Benny. Flyers have also been posted throughout the Keaukaha community and in Hilo as well. Volunteers have set up a Facebook page and will provide updates on the search progress, please click here to view the Facebook page. Those who are planning on volunteering in the search are asked to check-in at 'The Hub' located 2135 Kalanianaole Avenue and to pack and dress appropriately for the various weather conditions and locations that will be searching in. Also, be advised that it's at your own risk and know your own limits when searching.


Due to rough ocean conditions over the last few days, HFD Rescue Divers were not able to conduct an offshore and underwater search on Saturday and Sunday (December 21st & 22nd) and focus their search onshore assisting volunteers and HPD officers. However, HFD's Ocean Safety Jet Ski team had been conducting a daily patrol and search of the surrounding water. On Monday morning, HFD crews determined conditions on the water had significantly improved and were able to safely send HFD Rescue Divers into the water. Crews focused their search in area 1/4 mile offshore of the last known point of where Rapoza. As of 5:00 pm Monday evening, there were no signs of Benjamin "Benny" Rapoza.


HFD mentioned in a press release, that they will conduct an air and ground search of the shoreline at low tide Tuesday morning and afternoon (December 24th).


“We are truly grateful to the incredible response from the community during the search for Benny,” Esteban said. “While we encourage the public’s assistance, we do not want any injuries or mishaps, so please be vigilant of the ocean conditions and do not place your personal safety at risk.” Volunteer coordinators are also very grateful for the outpouring support and also the response from the community. They added that if you spot any sign of Benny including the diaper he was last seen wearing anywhere, you are asked to call the police immediately or contact one of the coordinators at the 'The Hub'.


If anyone has information on the whereabouts or may have seen Rapoza, you are asked to call HPD's Non-Emergency Line at 808-935-3311 or Detective BJ Sagon at (808) 961-8883 or email bobbie-jo.sagon@hawaiicounty.gov.

Update from HPD (as of 5:00 pm Saturday evening):


Hawaiʻi Police Department Area I Juvenile Aid Section Lieutenant Sandor Finkey Phone: 961-2254 Report no. 19-100172


Hawaiʻi Island police continue to ask for the public’s assistance and continue to search for a missing 6-year-old Hilo boy. 


A multi-agency search effort has yielded minimal results during an extensive search for Benjamin Rapoza, who was last seen at a residence in the 2100 block of Kalanianaole Street at around 3:00 pm yesterday (December 20).  Benjamin is described as local, standing about 3-feet tall, weighing about 50 pounds, slim build, with short brown hair, brown eyes, and a fair complexion.  He was last seen wearing only a diaper.


Police are concerned for his welfare as Benjamin is diagnosed with nonverbal autism.


Today’s efforts included personnel and assets from the Hawaiʻi Fire Department, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, U.S. Coast Guard, “Team Adam” from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, both Area I and II Criminal Investigations Divisions, and South Hilo Patrol. 


Community members and concerned citizens from the Keaukaha and Hilo areas also volunteered to assist in searching for “Benny”. 

Rain and heightened ocean swells hampered portions of the search and posed a navigation hazard to the fire department’s rescue vessel, requiring it return to shore.  Neither the vessel nor the personnel onboard sustained damages or injuries.

“We are truly grateful to the incredible response from the community during the search for Benny.  While we encourage the public’s assistance, we do not want any injuries or mishaps, so please be vigilant of the ocean conditions and do not place your personal safety at risk.” said Captain Greg Esteban, Commander of the Area I Criminal Investigations Division. 

Police continue to ask anyone with information on Benjamin’s whereabouts or may have seen him in the Keaukaha areas to call the Detective BJ Sagon at (808) 961-8883 or email bobbie-jo.sagon@hawaiicounty.gov.


Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the island-wide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.00. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers does not record calls or subscribe to any Caller ID service. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

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