Update video, photos: Bystanders from Maui shaken, not hurt

Some Maui residents were uninjured but shaken after hearing and seeing the fatal explosions Monday near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Had she not finished the race when she did, “I could be dead,” said Brittany Young, a 2007 Seabury Hall graduate who now lives in Boston and attends Northeastern University.

She completed the race in a little more than 4 hours and 1 minute and estimated that she was an eight-minute walk away when the bombs went off.

“I felt like I was there for just a minute,” she said. “I turned around and there was nothing and all this smoke was coming out of the building. I saw the second explosion.

“It’s heart wrenching and it’s tragic to know that this was a planned thing. The city is in a complete state of emergency.”

At least four other Maui runners participated in the prestigious marathon, for which runners must qualify. They included Wailuku residents Nicola Gifford, Bob Lash and Kelly Watanabe and Launiupoko resident Jennifer Tom.

Lash’s daughter, Lehua Lash, said she heard two loud explosions before the race was stopped Monday.

Her father was more than halfway through the race when he was among runners taken on a bus to a church until officials could determine that the finish line was safe.

Lehua Lash said she and her mother were holding signs on Hereford Street, near the finish line.

“We heard two really loud explosions,” she said. “Soon after that, they stopped the race. They just told us to get away. We didn’t know what was going on.

“Everybody was running around in hysterics and on their phones, trying to get in touch with people.”

Lehua Lash said she and her mother were with two other Maui runners – Gifford, who had finished the race shortly before the explosions, and Watanabe, who was almost at the finish line.

“They’re OK,” she said.

Bob Lash didn’t have a cellphone and borrowed other people’s phones to let his family know that he was fine, his daughter said.

“It was just crazy,” Lehua Lash said.

It was her first time watching the marathon, although her mother has been there before to watch her father, who finished two previous Boston Marathons and has run in numerous other marathons.

While waiting to be reunited with her father in temperatures in the 40s, Lash said people weren’t being allowed into their hotel, which is near the finish line.

“Prayers to the victims’ families,” she said.

Tom, who crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds, was walking back to the hotel when the explosions occurred. But 45 to 50 minutes earlier, her father and boyfriend had been “at the exact spot” where the bombs exploded, she said.

“I’m OK, a little shaken up, just glad that me and my loved ones are OK,” she said. “The last thing you would expect was a terrorist attack.

“It’s so sad for the families. It’s such a beautiful event. It’s just a shame that anybody could put a damper on it.”

Her boyfriend, Joe Medwetz, who has watched the marathon for the last four years, also extended prayers for families of those affected.

He said he usually sits in the area where the bombs exploded.

“It was just kind of surreal,” he said. “I spectate every year pretty much in the spot where it happened.”

Tom, a full-time marathoner, ran in her fifth consecutive Boston Marathon on Monday. She and Medwetz were planning to return next year.

“We’re not going to let something like this deter us from coming back,” he said.

At first after the bombs exploded, Young said she couldn’t see her mother who had a VIP pass to sit in bleachers where two more bombs were later found. Young also didn’t know the whereabouts of her friends who were holding signs near the finish line.

“All the runners next to me were in a state of anxiety, and I was too,” she said. “Right after the race, I couldn’t contact everybody for a good while.”

She said there were “tears streaming down my face,” as she thought not only of her family and friends but other runners, including some who had deferred running until this year to avoid the heat last year.

Young was running for the nonprofit Boston Bruins Foundation in her second Boston Marathon. As she did last year, she ran in memory of the late Michael Patrick Russell, an “amazing teacher” at Seabury Hall.

Young was spending post-race time Monday with her mother, brother and about a dozen friends. “A long hugger anyway,” Young said she had longer hugs Monday for about 20 friends she visited with.

After responding to 116 text messages, she found 105 more waiting.

“So much love,” she said. “It’s been quite an emotional day.”

Rudy Huber, race director for the Maui Marathon, said he had been in touch with Watanabe on Monday morning to learn that she was OK. Qualified as a “marathon maniac” based on the number of marathons she has run in a certain time period, Watanabe had been excited about running the Boston Marathon and also planned to run in another marathon while on the Mainland, Huber said.

He said he has been to the Boston Marathon, which is one of the older and most prestigious marathons.

“It is kind of scary to see something like that happen,” Huber said. “That really shakes up our sporting event around the country.

“Things like this – you can’t prepare for, you would never think would happen, especially in a running event. It’s something that a lot of huge marathons will have to think about now. It’s definitely something that tugs at your heart.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com. The video was provided by Kelly Watanabe.