LIHUE, Hawaii (KHON2) — A Kauai woman is safe after being swept out to sea during a flash flood early Sunday morning. Forty-nine-year-old Tamara Kondratief tells us she was fighting for her life for about an hour and a half from the moment she was swept away in the Wainiha River until rescuers found her in the ocean. She’s an avid swimmer but that was not the only element that helped her.
Kondratief says she’s grateful to be alive.
“As you can tell by my face I was hitting a lot of branches, rocks, and logs going down,” she said.
Late Saturday night as the floodwaters started to rise, Kondratief and her family were concerned for their dogs held at another location. So they borrowed their neighbor’s rowboat but it flipped over. Kondratief’s boyfriend and his son managed to get to safety
“Thank God they were safe and they were okay. He grabbed his son and I got trapped under the boat for a while so I got taken down into the river water,” Kondratief said.
As she was being swept away, Kondratief tells us there were moments where she thought she was going to die.
“Your clothes fill up with water and they act as an anchor and they are basically drowning you,” she said. “I was going under and when I had my clothes on it was impossible not to go under. And once I took all the clothes off then I was able to tread and stay above water a lot better.”
She also made use of every breath and screamed for help each time she exhaled. That’s what prompted neighbors to call 911. Tyson Gomez tells us he heard those bloodcurdling cries.
“It was really terrifying for everybody to hear her screaming and we know how dangerous the river is. If you’re in the river, it’s like you’re dead already. There’s no saving you,” said Gomez of Wainiha.
Kondratief tried to stay alive until she reached the ocean and once she did, she continued to cry for help until first responders found her. The Fire Department tells us they were also amazed at how Kondratief managed to survive. Most of the scrapes and bruises are on her face, but she managed not to break any bones.
“There were a couple of times I was probably knocked unconscious because I had a concussion when I got to the hospital,” she said.
Kondratief hopes people can learn from her terrifying experience and take flash floods seriously.
“I’m guilty, we don’t take it seriously because I never dreamed this was going to happen. I never saw this coming and it can happen to anybody. It’s a serious matter and it’s a life or death situation,” said Kondratief.
Here’s a release from the Kauai Fire Department: A woman is safe after being swept out to sea during the flash flood early Sunday morning in Wainiha.
At approximately 12:40 a.m. on Sunday, firefighters and police were dispatched to Wainiha Bay to conduct a search for a Wainiha woman who had reportedly been swept out to sea.
Once on scene, responders learned that the 46-year-old woman and two other individuals were attempting to evacuate their home by boat along the Wainiha River when the boat flipped over in the rapid waters.
The two other occupants of the boat, a man and child, were able to get to safety, but the woman became distressed in the fast-moving waters and was swept away.
Neighbors downstream heard the woman’s cries for help and called first responders.
After a short search, responders followed the woman’s cries and found she made her way to a shoreline located below a cliff.
Hanalei firefighters climbed down the cliff and assisted her out to awaiting AMR medics.
The woman sustained non-life threatening injuries to her head.
With assistance from State Department of Transportation officials, Engine 1 was able to transport the injured woman through the flooded and closed portion of Kuhio Highway in Hanalei.
Fire personnel met AMR medics on the Princeville side of the Hanalei Bridge, where they assessed her injuries and provided additional support while transporting her to Wilcox Hospital for further treatment.
The island of Kauai was under a Flash Flood Warning from 10 p.m. Saturday to 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
A Flash Flood Watch remains in effect through Monday afternoon.
A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding.
Residents and visitors should monitor the weather and be prepared to take action in the event that a Flash Flood Warning is issued.
For weather updates call the National Weather Service automated weather line at 245-6001, or visit the NWS website, www.weather.gov/hfo.