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Nine Kayakers Caught in Storm off Olowalu on Sunday

February 20, 2018, 7:40 AM HST · Updated February 20, 9:02 AM
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Olowalu, Maui. PC: File Asa Ellison

Two separate rescues were conducted on Sunday involving kayakers who got caught in a storm squall off of Olowalu, Maui.

One incident involved a tour group and the other involved a California woman who was located and rescued early Monday morning, nearly nine hours after she got separated from her friend.

7 Kayakers in Distress Off Camp Olowalu: 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18

Seven kayakers aboard four kayaks were rescued in waters off of Camp Olowalu on Sunday afternoon.

The incident was reported shortly after 4 p.m.   When firefighters arrived on scene at 4:18 p.m., they observed a total of seven people on four kayaks that appeared to be anchored and tethered together about 200 yards offshore. An ocean safety rescue watercraft arrived and shuttled two people at a time to shore until all seven individuals and four kayaks were safely on shore at 4:45 p.m.

Five women and one man ranging in age from 20 to 25-years-old from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a 52-year-old Honokōwai man were part of a kayak tour that got caught by brisk 30-40 mph winds and couldn’t make it back to shore.

The Honokōwai man, who was the group’s tour guide, threw out an anchor and tied the kayaks together to prevent the group from getting separated and blown out to sea. The tour guide and witnesses on shore called in to emergency dispatchers that help was needed getting back to shore.

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When they first started out, the guide said it wasn’t windy at all, but that “the winds suddenly came out of nowhere” and they soon found themselves battling the storm force winds. Members of the group did not require medical attention.

Lahaina firefighters and lifeguards from Hanakaʻōʻō Beach Park responded to the ocean rescue.

Two More Kayakers in Same Area Caught in Storm Force Winds

PC: US Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Lester.

At about the same time and unbeknownst to rescuers, there were two more kayakers in the same area who were also battling the winds and trying to get back to shore.

Emergency crews wouldn’t find out about them until one of them made it back to shore at around 7 p.m. Sunday night.

Fire crews were alerted at 7:15 p.m. Sunday that a woman in her early 60’s visiting from Corvallis, Oregon did not make it back to her vehicle parked off of Honoapiʻilani Highway just south of Camp Olowalu.

The woman’s friend, an Upcountry Maui man, had set out kayaking with the woman at 3 p.m. Sunday, but they became separated after they encountered 40 mph winds. He last saw her at around 4 p.m., roughly 200 yards from shore off of Camp Olowalu and heading in towards shore. Fire officials say he thought that she was going to make it to shore.

The Upcountry man couldn’t make it to shore fighting the winds so he paddled northwest with the wind and finally made it back to shore in the area often referred to as “Cut Mountain,” about 2.5 miles northwest from where they started. He managed to get a ride back to their cars. The woman’s car was still there but she was not.

Fire and police searched the shoreline from Māʻalaea to Puamana Park in Lahaina.  A Lahaina rescue boat was on the way but had to return to the harbor because of engine trouble.  Fire crews suspended their search at 9:45 p.m. and had planned to return at first light Monday morning.

A 45-foot response boat from Coast Guard Station Maui and a HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Barbers Point continued their search during the night.

The US Coast Guard spotted the woman with her kayak at around 12:30 a.m. Monday morning about a quarter-mile offshore, and near where her kayak partner last saw her.

A rescue diver from the Coast Guard helicopter was lowered to the water and assisted the woman back to shore. The woman was transferred to paramedics at about 12:50 a.m. and found to be otherwise uninjured, and only slightly hypothermic.

The Maui Fire Department extended its gratitude to the men and women of the US Coast Guard for their assistance in Sunday evening’s rescue of the Oregon woman. “It’s always uplifting news when individuals lost are found alive and are brought home to be reunited with friends and family,” fire officials said.

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