As if on cue for Sunday’s start of Hawai‘i Beach Safety Week, Honolulu Ocean Safety crews were called on the perform several rescues today, underscoring the public’s need to observe basic safety guidelines to avoid drowning and other ocean hazards.
First, at around 9:30 a.m., a man called 911 to report that his wife and her friend, both military personnel, had gotten caught in an ocean current while snorkeling and were pulled out roughly 1,000 yards off Kahe Point at the area known as Electric Beach.
A Honolulu Ocean Safety lifeguard paddled out and made contact with the women, both 29, and safely deposited the pair onto a boat that had stopped to help, according to Shayne Enright, spokeswoman for the Honolulu Emergency Services Department. Other Ocean Safety lifeguards responded on personal watercraft and brought the snorkelers to shore.
Honolulu Emergency Medical Services was called for one of the women who had swallowed water, but she did not require transport to a hospital.
Then just before noon, Ocean Safety personnel responded to a 911 call for two kayakers in distress in the surf outside Kahala Beach Park. Both were helped to shore and did not require medical attention, Enright said.
An hour later, Ocean Safety responded to a 911 call to assist a man and women in their 20s, also with the military, who were knocked off the rocks at Spitting Caves in Hawaii Kai into rough ocean conditions. Ocean Safety personnel on personal watercraft pulled both from the surf, which was said to be 4 to 8 feet, she said. Lifeguards brought the couple to shore where EMS treated them along with a third man who was able to get out from the roiling seas by himself. They all refused transport to a hospital, Enright said.
In Waikiki, Ocean Safety personnel responded to a 1:15 p.m. report of an unresponsive 72-year old man face-down in the waters off Kaimana Beach. Rescuers started CPR on the beach and transferred the man paramedics, who took over with advanced life support and transported the Hawaii man to an emergency room in critical condition, Enright said.
A 19-year-old diver was reported missing at 1:50 p.m. off Kaiona Beach Park in Waimanalo by friends who went diving together. Within 10 minutes of the 911 call, Ocean Safety personnel found the diver and brought him to shore safely.
The day wasn’t over yet for Honolulu ocean rescue crews. Just before 4 p.m., an unresponsive swimmer was reported off the Ewa side of Magic Island, Enright said. Honolulu Ocean Safety pulled the female of unknown age from the water and performed CPR on shore to no avail. She was pronounced dead at the scene, Enright said.
She said the incidents are a reminder to carry a cellphone when going to the beach or out in a recreational craft, and to call 911 immediately when you notice someone in distress.
The state Department of Health is recognizing drowning prevention efforts across our islands in observance of Hawai‘i Beach Safety Week. This year’s weeklong observance is dedicated to Hawaii Drowning and Aquatic Injury Prevention Advisory Committee member and longtime water safety advocate Ray Sanborn, who recently passed away unexpectedly.
Sanborn, president and CEO of Kama‘aina Kids, was a founding member of the advisory committee and an “enthusiastic contributor to drowning prevention efforts for decades,” said a DOH news release.
Unable to convene the annual State Ocean Safety Conference and Jr. Lifeguard Championships due to COVID-19, the weeklong “Ocean Safety Amidst a Pandemic: Keeping your Ohana Safe” campaign will be promoted in radio spots and other safety messages from water safety officials in each county.
Residents comprised eight of nine fatal ocean drownings in Hawaii since April, DOH reported, compared to only four of the 14 fatal drownings from January through March in the pre-lockdown period. Fatal ocean drownings in the state are projected to be about 50% lower than the annual average of 82 over the last five years.
Free-diving continues to be one of the most common activities among resident drowning victims, accounting for five of the 12 fatal incidents between January and July.