Multiple ocean safety rescues this weekend as beach safety week kicks off

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Ocean Safety kept busy this weekend rescuing multiple people across the island.

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Several were at an East Oahu area referred to as Spitting Caves which has become a hot spot for rescues especially during Honolulu’s beach and parks closure.

Sadly, a 72-year-old was found unresponsive at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki and another person died at Magic Island over the weekend.

Hawaii Beach Safety week kicked off on Sunday. Each island is sharing a message to residents and visitors as more people venture off the beaten path and ocean conditions start to change.

Honolulu Ocean Safety said they’ve noticed an increase in residents going to hidden areas, especially during the beach closure.

“They end up coming down to the beach and hiding out in places that are off the beaten path,” explained Windward Honolulu Ocean Safety Lt. Tanner Haytin. “And that usually turns into a party, drinking is involved and anytime drinking is involved a situation occurs.”

According to the state, more visitors drown each year doing activities such as snorkeling and swimming. From April through July, eight of nine of the drownings have been residents.

Kauai has seen a similar situation with residents going off the beaten path.

“That’s where the good fishing is at,” explained Chief Kalani Vierra, Kauai Fire Department Ocean Safety said. “It’s way better surf there, and there’s way better ocean recreation. So yes, we’ve been responding outside of our boundaries to these different locations.”

When Honolulu beaches and parks first shut down in the spring, lifeguard towers were empty and they switched to mobile response utilizing ATV’s, rescue craft, and trucks to respond to situations, most of which occurred away from guarded beaches.

“We’re just adapting our operations,” explained Lt. Haytin. “We’re trying to expand and make it more efficient in order to be able to reach those areas as soon as possible in the most effective manner.”

With CARES ACT money, Honolulu Ocean Safety bought nine UTV’s which are equipped with a backboard, surfboard, AED device, and first aid kit which brings the lifeguard tower to people while keeping lifeguards safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The main benefit is that it allows our lifeguard to stay away from the general public whom he or she is serving and literally be able to keep that six-foot or more distance,” explained Honolulu Ocean Safety Chief John Titchen.

Lifeguards encourage everyone to know where they are going, especially if it’s off the beaten path. Let someone know where you are going, never swim alone and if you see someone in trouble, call 911 immediately.

“You have four to six minutes survival if you’re unconscious in the water,” explained Lt. Haytin.

If you’re on a coastline with high surf, and someone can throw a life saving device to you and call 911, swim towards deep water until lifeguards can get to you.

The first swell is set to arrive on the North-facing shores this week. Lifeguards warn that people need to be mindful of the changing ocean conditions

“We’re probably going to be kicking off our winter season on the North Shore so we should be having some considerable size surf arriving soon for our north and west facing shores,” explained Lt. Kerry Atwood, North Shore Honolulu Ocean Safety.

Other reminders from lifeguards:

  • Never swim alone
  • Observe the ocean or water before entering, especially if you’re at an unguarded beach

“Sometimes the big sets or bige waves take 10-15 minutes to come through, and if you jump in as soon as you get there, you can get into trouble,” explained Chief Vierra.

  • Obey all warning signs
  • Have an emergency action plan.

“Obviously, when you go to the beach, especially remote beaches, obviously you want to have your cell phone with you,” explained Chief Vierra. “You want to know where you’re going. You want to let people know that if you’re going to be gone for a certain period of time to make sure you have some type of emergency action plan. Also know the location that you going to because a lot of people might pronounce the beach name differently, and they’ll send the rescue people to totally different beaches, that sounds the same.”

  • Keep our ocean and beaches clean.

“Lastly, I think the biggest tip we can give you is knowing your limitations,” explained Chief Vierra. “I know it’s the first swell and everybody’s all eager to get into water, and the conditions are going to be beautiful. But if it’s over your limitation, maybe you might have to go to another easier spot around the corner or something. I think the safest thing to say is when in doubt, don’t go out. Save it for another day.”

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