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Kauai officials welcome passage of lifeguard bill

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    Lifeguard Chris Zorbo manning his station at Ala Moana Beach.

LIHUE » Kauai officials are celebrating the passage of a state measure that pushes back the sunset clause on a law allowing county lifeguards to operate on state beaches.

The Garden Island newspaper reports the state House last week passed a measure extending by three years the legal immunity given to county lifeguards working on state beaches. The law doesn’t apply in cases of gross negligence.

A number of bills were introduced this legislative session in an attempt to do away with the sunset provision altogether.

HB1024 "allows our lifeguards to continue to ensure the safety of our local beachgoers and visitors," Rep. Derek Kawakami, who introduced the bill, said in a statement.

The bill has been sent to the governor.

Kawakami, who represents Kauai’s north shore, said he sees firsthand what a large role lifeguards play in the protection of state beaches.

Eight people drowned at Kee Beach, a state park on Kauai’s north shore between 1970 and 2008. But no one has drowned there since lifeguards began looking out for people at the beach in 2008.

The most recent drowning at Kee occurred in 2007, when a 37-year-old pilot for U.S. Airways died while snorkeling.

Kauai Fire Chief Robert Westerman said the county and Kauai’s ocean safety bureau are pleased with the outcome. He said the measure helps lifeguards keep residents and visitors safe.

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