POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 16, 2013
LIHUE, Kauai » The state last week moved to formally approve the presence of hundreds of rescue tube stations that have saved the lives of dozens of people in Kauai waters.
The Garden Island newspaper reported that the state and the Kauai Lifeguard Association signed documents Wednesday legitimizing the stations, which have been around for about five years.
Monty Downs, Kauai Lifeguard Association president, said the program can now continue on Kauai and expand to other islands.
"Rescue tubes obviously aren't in the same ballpark as having lifeguards on our beaches, but their presence has been responsible for quite a number of lives saved," Downs said.
There have been 67 documented cases where lives were saved with the rescue tubes, Downs said.
The rescue tube station program started in 2008, when a citizen hung a lifeguard's rescue tube on a shoreline shrub at Larsen's Beach. A beachgoer soon after used the tube to rescue someone pulled out to sea.
The lifeguard association picked up on this and began setting up rescue tube stations.
Downs said beaches up to the high water mark are owned by the state, and for five years the state kept a "benevolent eye" on the developing program.
"The good news is that they didn't tear them down," Downs said, "and because of that there are a fair number of people walking around, people who wouldn't have been alive were there not a rescue tube, and a person to use it, at the beach where they got in trouble."
There are today more than 200 stations on Kauai's beaches, as well as some on Hawaii island and on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Downs said the program has been able to help Kauai with its "tough, tough ocean safety challenge." Fourteen people have drowned on Kauai this year.