HONOLULU(KHON2) — The body of a 21-year-old woman was recovered near Makapu’u tide pools Saturday morning.
The victim had been hiking around the coastline near Pele’s Chair when a large wave pulled her into the ocean.
Ocean safety responded to a 911 swimmer in distress call off the Kaiwi Shoreline just before 9 a.m. Honolulu Ocean Safety Lt. Makena Hart was on duty when the call came in.
“We responded to an area of Makapu’u tide pools, which can be accessed by the lighthouse trail,” Hart explained. “Upon getting there, we couldn’t find the callers. A rescue craft left Sandy Beach and was able to come around and saw two females on the cliff line and they started to do the search there.”
According to the victim’s mother, the victim and two of her friends had been at the tide pools and started hiking along the rocky coast toward Sandy Beach when a wave crashed onto the rocks and swept her into the sea.
Rescuers found her body an hour later.
“The area where this person was today is a cliffside area with surf breaking on it,” Hart said. “There’s nowhere really around to help you if you do get into trouble.”
Unpredictable conditions and limited access make the area even more perilous.
“We’ve had countless numbers of incidents (at Makapu’u tide pools) over the years. Patients getting swept off. A lot of drownings.”
Jessamy Town Hornor knows all too well how dangerous that area is. Her husband, Mark, and 6-year-old daughter, Mina, died there in 2016..
“I still wake up in the morning and it’s still hard for me to believe,” she said.
Mark had taken their three girls to the tide pools on July 16, 2016. She said the conditions were initially calm, but then the tide shifted.
“Apparently there was an offshore storm and it brought in a storm surge with an overhead set,” Hornor said. “The first wave swept my daughter Mina out and my husband went in after her, and neither of them were able to survive the conditions.”
Since then, Hornor has advocated for better ocean safety education.
“That place, because it’s so unpredictable, the public needs to know about it,” she explained.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) manages the area and there are warning signs along the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail, which is normally how people get to the tide pools.
In a statement, DLNR Division of State Parks Administration said:
“There is also a “closed area” sign at the intersection with the social trail leading down to the tide pools along the route to the lighthouse viewpoint. The tide pools are indeed a closed area.”
Yet people still go there.
Hornor said the State needs to do a better job of managing it. She has been warning them for years.
“I said this is going to happen again unless there’s changes and unfortunately it’s happened again,” Hornor said. “My heart goes out to the family of today’s accident.”