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Firefighters find body in Big Island stream


HILO » Searchers found the body of a man swept away by floodwaters Sunday night.

The Hawaii County Fire Department says currents in Kawainui Stream subsided Wednesday, enabling firefighers to recover the body of Ernesto Combes, 43, about 500 yards downstream of a bridge on Onomea Scenic Road known as "6 Ton Bridge."

Those who were fishing for prawns with Combes, 43, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald they were unprepared for the stream to quickly rise to about 15 feet.

Combes has been missing since Sunday night’s flash flood at Kawainui Stream carried him away.

"I was scared, I thought I’d lose my life," Combes’ girlfriend Cathy Balicoco said. She was also caught in the flood but managed to hang on to large rock until she was rescued. Balicoco, 45, was taken to the emergency room at Hilo Medical Center where she was treated for scratches and bruises.

Her son, Ricky Mendoza, 21, said he and his girlfriend had just made it out of a cave in the stream when the flash flood carried away his mother Combes.

"We went to the cave so many times but we never experience the water that came," Balicoco said.

About two dozen of Combes’ friends and family gathered Tuesday afternoon around a bridge on the Onomea scenic route, near where he disappeared as a search helicopter hovered over the stream and the nearby shoreline.

Rescuers said low visibility in the stream hampered the search effort until Wednesday.

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