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Coast Guard, fire crews search for missing sailor from stricken boat

  • COURTESY U.S. COAST GUARD
    The Coast Guard and the Hawaii County Fire Department are searching for a possible person in the water off of the Big Island, Hawaii, Jan. 3, 2015. The 74-foot sailing vessel, Hawaii Aloha ran hard aground with five persons on board.
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Hawaii County fire rescue personnel and the Coast Guard were searching Saturday for a person missing after a 75-foot sailboat that capsized in heavy seas west of Hawaii island. 

According to a Coast Guard spokesperson, witnesses saw signal flares from the area on Friday evening and alerted local authorities.

The boat later ran aground off Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

According to the website ywamsships.net, operated by the missionary group Youth With a Mission, the 75-foot Hawai’i Aloha headed out to sea Friday to "outlast the dangerous conditions" as a cold front brought high winds and seas.

About 4 miles from shore, the boat was hit broadside by a series of large waves and flipped twice.

The crew shot off flares and three women and a man abandoned ship in a life raft. They were helped to shore by two Jet Ski operators, the website said.

Another man remains missing.

A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew spent the day searching the area. The Coast Guard patrol boat Kittiwake also was dispatched to aid in the search.

YWAMS ships brings medical, dental and clean water supplies to remove islands otherwise unreachable, the website says. The ship was loaded with supplies and was set to sail for Christmas Island Tuesday.

The National Weather Service warned mariners to expect west to northwest winds of 35 mph, with higher gusts, and rough seas of 8 to 14 feet in all channels through Saturday.

In Honolulu, the same storm system kept Honolulu firefighters busy Friday night and Saturday morning as they responded to nearly four dozen reports of downed trees in a 12-hour span.

Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Kendall Ching said from 9:15 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday, firefighters responded to 44 reports of downed trees, 16 calls for blown roofs and three reports of arcing wires.

Weather-related troubles started earlier Friday when firefighters responded to 21 reports of downed trees, nine reports of power line problems, nine requests for assistance for blown roofs and four calls about arcing wires from 12:01 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. Friday, Ching said.

Reports of downed trees continued into Saturday afternoon.

Blackouts punctuated the island Friday night. Power finally was restored to about 1,200 customers in the Mililani Tech Park and Launani Valley area at 1:35 p.m. Saturday.

The weather service said much quieter weather is expected for the remainder of this weekend following Friday night’s passing cold front.

Due to runoff from the heavy rain, the state Health Department issued a brown-water advisory Saturday for Waimea Bay on Oahu and coastal seas off West Maui. The warning extended from Honolua Bay to Hanakaoo Beach Park just south of Kaanapali.

The public is advised to stay out of floodwaters and stormwater runoff because of possible overflowing of cesspools and sewer manholes, pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, pathogens, chemicals and associated flood debris, the Health Department said. Brown water also is known to attract sharks because of dead animals possibly being washed into the ocean, officials said.

The summit of Haleakala National Park remained closed because of downed trees and a landslide outside the park’s summit entrance, said National Park Service spokeswoman Polly Angelakis. The Kipahulu District of the park is open but there were lots of downed trees and rocks on Hana Highway, she said.

On Hawaii island, about 5,900 Hawaii Electric Light Co. customers in North Hilo and Hamakua, as well as spots in Hilo, lower and upper Puna, and Kau were experiencing power outages by mid-afternoon Saturday. Winds caused trees to fall into power lines and break lines and poles.

Several roads on Hawaii island closed Saturday morning because of fallen trees, including Route 11 at the 68 mile marker.

According to Hawaii County Police, Route 137 in Puna closed temporarily, along with Kohala Mountain Road on the north side of the island and parts of Old Mamalahoa Highway, because of storm hazards and fallen trees.

Red Cross volunteers were assessing the damage in Maui and Hawaii counties.

The bad weather also forced prison officials to cancel visiting hours Saturday at Kulani Correctional Facility. A state Department of Public Safety spokeswoman reported downed trees and hazardous conditions along Stainback Highway, which leads up to the prison.

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