Two good Samaritan drownings in a week: What to do if you see someone in distress

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Two good Samaritans drowned in just a week. One happened in waters off the Big Island, and the other took place off West Oahu. Ocean Safety said the incidents highlight the need for more ocean safety education.

Alejandro Palisbo, known as “Dino” by friends and family, was fishing at LualuaLei Beach Park on January 5 when 69-year-old William Amamalin Jr. ran into trouble diving offshore. Dino lived in the area and was familiar with ocean conditions in the area.

Dino’s sister, Kerry Anduha, said he tried to warn Amamalin.

“Dino did say, ‘Hey, don’t go in. Look too rough,'” Anduha said.

Amamalin went in anyway.

Anduha said she wasn’t surprised her brother jumped in to help his friend.

“That wasn’t surprising. What really hurt us is when we was told he didn’t make it, along with his friend. They both didn’t make it,” Anduha explained.

Four days later, 42-year-old Patrick Fuga was swept out to sea after fishing on a remote shoreline in Ka’u on the Big Island. Then 39-year-old Petelo “Lo” Finau attempted to help. Hours later, both men were found unresponsive.

Two selfless acts did not go as intended for the brave men who hoped to help friends in distress.

Ocean Safety Lt. Kawika Eckart said it highlights the need for education and explaining what the options are in an emergency situation.

Eckart said there are number of things people should remember.

First and foremost, never underestimate the power of the ocean. In an instant, a rogue wave or strong current can grab hold of you, so it’s important to be prepared. Above all, if you do find yourself in an emergency situation, don’t panic.

Eckart said if someone is in trouble, the first thing to do is call 911.

“Secondly, if you have any kind of floatation device, something as simple as a cooler, something that floats, throw that out to the person.”

He said never jump in on impulse.

“The worst thing you could do is jump into something, or into the ocean, without having the ability to perform a rescue or help that person, let alone help yourself,” he explained.

“If you got swept into the ocean — most likely you weren’t planning on getting in the water — the best thing to do is to relax and swim away from the cliff,” Eckart said. “A lot of people think that the best thing to do is try to climb back up and all you’re going to do is get bashed up against the rocks.”

It’s also important to go with a partner, tell someone on shore where you are going and how long you intend to be gone.

“That way if you haven’t come out, they know to start looking for you and they know what the plan was. They know where you were going, and it helps us as responders to start our search,” Eckart explained.

Anduha said she is proud of her brother Dino for trying to rescue his friend, but she wants everyone to remember to be safe.

“He thought he could handle [the ocean conditions.] They thought they could handle it. And it’s just that day, they both lost their lives,” Anduha said. “So I just want to say to everybody, be careful.”

A celebration of life will be held for Alejandro “Dino” Palisbo at Pokai Bay Saturday, July 31, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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