New Airport Initiative to Prevent Visitor Drownings
Transportation officials across the state will join forces with the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority on Monday to announce a new initiative aimed at informing visitors and residents about ocean safety and prevent drownings. Ocean drowning is the leading cause of fatal injury among visitors to Hawaiʻi, accounting for nearly half of the total of all fatal injuries, according to officials with the State Department of Health.
In December of 2015, the Maui Visitors Bureau joined the Mayor’s Office in launching an ocean safety video at Kahului Airport, with educational information, tips on venturing out into the water, and how to avoid dangerous situations.
The video advises visitors to check local weather and surf reports for high surf advisories, harbor surges, and flood warnings before going out. Warning signs are also posted along shorelines that have a history of strong currents, dangerous shore breaks, and are prone to flooding or other natural hazards.
Monday’s announcement will be made by the State, City & County of Honolulu, Counties of Hawaiʻi, Kauaʻi, and Maui, Department of Transportation and Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority.
Ocean Incidents By the Numbers:
Below is a breakdown of drowning incidents in Hawaiian waters as referenced in the “Visitor Safety: How are we doing?” report compiled by Dan Galanis with the Injury Prevention and Control section at the state Department of Health.
According to the report, there were 16 spinal cord injuries at Mākena between 2009 and 2012; 5 at Kāʻanapali; 3 at Hāmoa; and 3 at Polo Beach. The leading cause of spinal cord injuries in Hawaiʻi between 2009 and 2012 was ocean activities, with 151 ocean-related incidents reported across the state including: 42 from body surfing; 37 from body boarding; and 42 that were tossed by a wave. Most of these, 77% involved non-residents.
According to the report, between 2003 and 2012, there were a total of 538 drownings in Hawaiian waters (including: 282 visitors; and 256 residents). The breakdown is as follows:
• 115 snorkeling (including: 12 residents; and 102 non-residents)
• 145 swimming (including: 53 residents and 92 non-residents)
• 51 free diving (including: 48 residents and 3 visitors)
• 41 fell or were swept in (including: 21 residents, and 21 visitors)
• 36 surfing/body boarding (including 26 residents, and 10 visitors)
• 23 scuba (including: 8 residents and 15 visitors)
• 18 fishing shorecasting (including: 18 residents)
• 9 picking opihi (including: 9 residents)
• 7 boating accident (including: 6 residents, and 1 visitor)
• 27 Other activity (including: 22 residents, and 15 visitors)
• 55 unknown activity (including: 32 residents, and 23 visitors)
• There were a total of 105 ocean drownings in Maui County over the 10 year period between 2003 and 2013, which translates to 6 to 19 per year (including 95 on Maui, 8 on Molokaʻi and 2 on Lānaʻi).
• Most of these, 72% were non-residents.
• 34% involved swimming; 29% involved snorkeling; and 13% were from unintentional immersions.
• Number of drownings per activity: 36 swimming; 30 snorkeling; 14 unintentional immersion; 10 diving; 8 unknown; 7 other activity.
• Over the 10 year period between 2003 and 2013, there were 21 drownings in Kāʻanapali alone, 13 of them in the Puʻu Kekaʻa or “Black Rock” area. 20 of these incidents involved visitors.