HONOLULU (KHON2) – Drowning is the 5th leading cause of fatal injuries in Hawaii, according to Hawaii Department of Health

The health department claims there are more than 350 drowning fatalities occurring in a 5-year period, averaging around 50 per year!

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It’s especially high among non-residents during this time period, drownings were the 3rd leading cause of any type of death, behind heart disease and cancer. 

Drowning is also the leading cause of injury-related death, ahead of suicide, falls, motor vehicle crashes and other causes.   

Compared to non-residents, there were less resident drowning deaths during this time period when looking at swimming, free diving and unknown activity. 

Most non-resident drowning deaths occurred while snorkeling, swimming and unknown activity. The rate of fatal ocean drowning for non-residents in Hawaii is about eight times higher than for residents. 

Contributory factors to a drowning:

  • currents
  • waves
  • offshore winds
  • pre-existing disease
  • underwater entanglement
  • bottom surface gradient and stability
  • water transparency
  • impeded visibility
  • lack of parental supervision
  • poor or inadequate equipment
  • overloading of boats
  • overestimation of skills and lack of local knowledge
  • cold
  • alcohol use

Kauai has the highest ten-year rate of total fatal ocean drownings among residents and non-residents, followed by Maui, Big Island and Oahu.

For every fatal drowning, it is estimated that 13 non-fatal drownings occur, some of which may be associated with long term disability.  

In addition to the pain and suffering, the “comprehensive effects of drowning include the economic loss (victim’s productivity loss and the expenses relating to the event) and the value of lost quality of life associated with the death or injury.”

The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that one percent of the total rescues made by lifeguards would have resulted in a drowning death in the absence of lifeguards.

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For more information on how to prevent a drowning head to Hawaii Health Department’s website