Man who had heart attack after Hawaii missile alert sues

HONOLULU (AP) — A man who suffered a heart attack shortly after Hawaii mistakenly issued an alert about a ballistic missile filed a lawsuit against the state on Tuesday.

The false missile alert and the state's failure to cancel it in a timely manner was a substantial factor in causing James Sean Shields' heart attack on Jan. 13, the lawsuit said.

His girlfriend Brenda Reichel joined the lawsuit, having suffered "emotional upset" from watching him almost die on several occasions.

Their lawsuit names the state of Hawaii and the then-administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, Vern Miyagi. It names unidentified state employees, individuals and entities responsible for the missile alert. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

"We're going to reserve any comment until we have had a chance to review the claims," said Richard Rapoza, a spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency

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Living in Hawaii amid fears of a nuclear missile attack
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Living in Hawaii amid fears of a nuclear missile attack
A view of an old WWII bunker that has been sealed up in Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
An overview of Diamond Head crater seen from the National Guard command center in Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Oahu Civil Defense Hazard Mitigation officer Havinne Okamura monitors global events in real time at the Civil Defense command bunker in Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
An old WWII bunker is used as a National Guard command center in Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Tourist leave the entrance tunnel to Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Oahu Civil Defense Hazard Mitigation officer Havinne Okamura and Senior Warning Officer Scott Harrison (L) monitor global events in real time at the Civil Defense command bunker in Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Historical memorabilia are displayed at the Civil Defense command bunker in Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
A Oahu Civil Defense employee enters the Civil Defense command bunker in Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Oahu Civil Defense Senior Warning Officer Scott Harrison monitors global events in real time at the Civil Defense command bunker in Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Diamond Head crater on Oahu in Hawaii can be seen in this August 8, 2013 handout photo obtained by Reuters July 6, 2017. Master Sgt. Kendra M Owenby/U.S. Air National Guard/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Virginia-class attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) passes by Diamond Head crater on Oahu in Hawaii while transiting to Pearl Harbor in this July 23, 2009 handout photo obtained by Reuters July 6, 2017. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd class Meagan Klein/U.S. Navy Photo/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter participates in a helicopter training exercise over Diamond Head crater on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in this July 3, 2014 handout photo obtained by Reuters July 6, 2017. Ensign Joseph Pfaff/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Vern Miyagi (C), administrator for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, speaks at a news conference discussing the newly-activated Attack Warning Tone intended to warn Hawaii residents of an impending nuclear missile attack, at the Civil Defense department at Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Garcia
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State attorney general spokesman Krishna F. Jayaram said his office will review the complaint carefully and respond in due course. Miyagi declined to comment.

A Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee mistakenly sent the missile alert to cellphones and broadcasters on Jan. 13, triggering widespread panic until the agency sent another message 38 minutes later notifying people it was a false alarm.

The lawsuit recounts how the couple was heading from their townhome in Hawaii Kai to Sandy Beach on Saturday morning when they received the alert on their cellphones.

"Both plaintiffs believe this message to be true and were extremely frightened and thought they were shortly going to die," the lawsuit said. They decided if they were going to die, they might as well die together on the beach, the lawsuit said.

Reichel's son, who is in the Hawaii Army National Guard, called her saying the threat was real and asked what they planned to do to seek shelter. The couple called their loved ones as they drove to the beach. Shields began to feel a severe and painful burning in his chest after he called his son and daughter.

Shortly after, he went to a community clinic, where he suffered cardiac arrest. A doctor resuscitated him, while arriving paramedics assisted him further. He was diagnosed with a myocardial infarction or heart attack after he arrived at Straub Hospital, the lawsuit said.

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