Scary moments for a whale watching tour group just outside of Haleiwa Boat Harbor. Nineteen passengers and two crew members were returning to shore when the 40-foot catamaran was hit by a large set.
“What were the conditions like when you first went out into the water?” KHON2 asked.
“It was pretty rough. We got thrown around a couple times by waves, but we just figured that was part of getting out there,” said passenger Hayley Nitkowski. “The next thing that happened was the wave had hit us and we were all thrown everywhere and just some of us off board. Luckily, my husband and I stayed on board somehow. There were about five people who went off board.”
Hayley’s friend, who’s five months pregnant, went overboard. Her husband quickly sprang into action.
“We finally spotted her 400 feet or so behind the boat. So the captain started throwing life jackets overboard and I grabbed them a couple and swam out to her. But she’s a really strong swimmer, so she had everything under control. But I was able to help another lady back to the boat,” said passenger Stephen Nitkowski.
Ocean Safety and Honolulu firefighters teamed up in the rescue. They used jet skis to shuttle passengers back to shore.
“Basically we’re bringing in two to three people at a time, passengers, off of the catamaran into shore. Took us roughly two hours, hour-and-a-half to two hours, to get everybody on shore safely,” said Battalion Chief Keoni Kino of the Honolulu Fire Department.
According to Emergency Medical Services, a 50-year-old woman was taken to the hospital in stable condition. Five other passengers were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
“Are boats encouraged to go out in the water in these types of conditions?” KHON2 asked.
“No, not necessarily encouraged. Basically depending on the skill level of the captain of the boat. That would be their judgment at the time. Again, it’s a misfortunate accident,” said Battalion Chief Kino.
“I have to thank our guardian angels, I think, for allowing us to come out of it unscathed ’cause I honestly, with what happened, the strength of the wave, I have no idea how we made it,” said Hayley Nitkowski.
Fire officials say the catamaran will be towed to Waianae Boat Harbor.
A high surf warning is in effect for the North Shore of Oahu until 6 a.m. Monday.