The U.S. Army and Honolulu medical examiner have identified two men who were killed at Halona Blowhole in East Oahu over the weekend.
They were identified as Spc. Caleb Michael Collins, 22, from Mililani, and Spc. Shyheim Tashan Andrews, 21, from Waipahu.
According to Schofield Barracks, both were motor vehicle operators assigned to 524th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 25th Sustainment Brigade, 25th ID.
At approximately 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 25, officials said Collins and Andrews were hiking at Halona Beach Park.
Andrews was hit by a wave and pulled into the water, and Collins jumped in to try and save him.
According to Ocean Safety officials, another man and two other bystanders jumped in to help during the initial search Saturday, but later had to be rescued by lifeguards.
The bodies of both men were recovered Sunday. Officials said the first body was found 6:24 a.m. and the second found at 6:44 p.m. between Sandy Beach and the blowhole.
Honolulu firefighters say a bystander found the second body after it washed up onshore by a big wave.
The Honolulu medical examiner confirms both men drowned.
“The thoughts and prayers of everyone within the 25th ID and U.S. Army-Hawaii formations are with the families and friends of Collins and Andrews,” according to a Schofield Barracks press release.
Chaplains and counselors from 25th ID have been working with families and 524th CSSB Soldiers throughout the last 48 hours to help those affected.
This incident is currently under investigation by military officials.
One of the bigger swells of the summer affecting south and west shores kept Oahu rescue crews busy for most of the weekend. Beachgoers and boaters were caught off-guard by large wave activity and rough ocean conditions.
“Conditions are pretty tough, this is probably the biggest surf we had all summer on the south shore,” said Honolulu Fire Department Battalion Chief Geoffrey Chang. “The waters are very turbulent. Visibility is very poor, and the surf is quite large. It’s a tough search.”
On Saturday, Ocean Safety rescued 21 people on the south shore and 18 people on the west side, but they also responded to thousands of what they call preventative actions.
On Sunday, the number jumped to 147 total.
“This weekend, we saw everything,” said spokesperson Shayne Enright with Honolulu Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services. “Small children nearly drowning on the westside to experienced surfers getting into trouble. Our lifeguards are trained to do these types of rescues, but even for them, these are harried waters right now.”
At Diamond Head on Saturday, crews responded to a boater in distress. The boat was towed to the Ala Wai and no injuries were reported.
On the same day at China Walls, a man was taken to the hospital after he was rescued. Lifeguards also rescued three people in Nanakuli.
Later that evening at Rockpiles near Ala Moana, three people on board a sailboat were stuck on the reef after getting hit by waves. All were brought to shore by bystanders and fire rescue crews, but only two of the the three were hospitalized, one in serious condition, the other in stable condition.
“Make a smart decision and if you’re not sure, you probably shouldn’t go in right now,” surfer Jonathan Elfalan said. “I’m just going to see how strong the current is, and the waves, and sort decide for myself if I should go in or not.”
A tropical storm to the east of New Zealand generated a lot of energy through the Pacific earlier in the week, and this swell hasn’t necessarily reached its peak. Sunday could possibly bring bigger waves, with the forecast showing 8 to 12 feet on the south shores and 4 to 7 on the west.
But large waves are not the only concern. Longshore and rip currents that aren’t visible make swimming extremely difficult and dangerous.
Experts say the best advice is to always check with lifeguards before entering the water.