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Woman and 5-year-old boy die in Kaaawa kayak accident during spring break camp

A 5-year-old boy and 63-year-old woman died Thursday in a kayak accident off Kaaawa during a Mid-Pacific Institute spring break camp program.

Family members have identified the woman as Maria Davis, an assistant in the school’s spring break program and the wife of Mid-Pacific Chaplain Wendell Davis.

“Incredible person,” said a cousin who declined to give her name. “She was the heart and soul of our church. She ran the children’s ministry, Na Opio.” She added that Davis shared her creative talents with others but always centered them around worship.

Davis’ son, who also declined to give his name, said he received the news about his mother by phone, but his brother and sister had been in Kaaawa. He declined further comment.

The boy was a participant in the spring break program but not a current student at Mid-Pacific, Mid-Pacific President and CEO Paul Turnbull said in a written statement.

“We are devastated that a young child and a camp assistant drowned while kayaking during one of our spring break programs,” Turnbull said in the statement. “It is impossible to fully express our heartbreak and shock at this time.”

The Honolulu Fire Department responded to a distress call for an overturned kayak at 11:36 a.m. at 51-355 Kamehameha Highway near the intersection with Puakenikeni Road in Kaaawa, according to Capt. Scot Seguirant. Seven units including Air 1, staffed with 24 personnel, responded and, upon arrival about 10 minutes later, found one unresponsive adult and one unresponsive child. City lifeguards also responded.

Firefighters found the overturned kayak about 150 yards offshore and rescued two children and the unresponsive female. A good Samaritan previously had brought an unresponsive child to shore, according to Seguirant.

Lifeguards and firefighters assisted with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Firefighters said they did not see life vests, but were unable to confirm whether the kayakers were wearing life vests in the water, Seguirant said.

Both the boy and Maria Davis were transferred in critical condition to the care of Emergency Medical Services, which provided advanced life support treatment en route to a hospital.

They were later pronounced dead, the Honolulu Medical Examiner Office confirmed.

Dozens of family members along with Mid-Pacific officials gathered inside the waiting area at the Adventist Health Castle hospital in Kailua.

The unidentified cousin said Davis was a loving and generous person who loved Jesus and God.

“Her life was a reflection of that,” she said.

Davis also was a creative and talented woman who shared those gifts with others and always with the focus on God, her cousin said.

“She always had kids over at her house, taught them songs — ‘Jesus loves you,’ how to sing and dance, and about the love of God.”

Davis was also a kumu hula with a hula halau and was “a beautiful hula dancer,” her cousin said.

“She taught the ladies in the church,” she said, adding that they were “worshipping through hula.”

The woman said that both Davis and her husband, who is also a kahu (minister), “dedicated their lives to God, spreading love to everyone wherever they went.”

“Upon hearing that this accident occurred, we immediately assembled crisis counselors and are completely focused on the needs of our students, teachers and their families. This is our only concern at this moment,” Turnbull said.

Star-Advertiser reporter Nina Wu contributed to this report.

Correction: The 5-year-old boy was not a kindergarten student at MidPac, as was reported in an earlier version of this story. Also, the incorrect age for him had been previously reported.
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