Emergency crews responded to Kaihalulu Bay in East Maui for a second day in a row for a report of a swimmer in distress on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. The incident was reported at around 12:50 p.m. at the area often referred to as “Red Sand Beach.”
A bystander tells us he used a rescue float to assist the man before fire crews arrived on scene. Hāna Battalion Chief Michael Werner said a crew aboard the department’s Air 1 helicopter was diverted from a sky diver rescue reported near the Hāna Airport , and arrived to find the swimmer had already been brought to shore and was uninjured.
“Without hesitation I quickly ran to get the rescue float and began to swim out to the man,” said Michael Gorenstein, an area resident of Kīpahulu. Gorenstein, had initially assumed the individual was an experienced swimmer with proper gear, but said he was “a bit alarmed,” and kept an eye out from time to time to make sure the swimmer was okay.
About 20-30 minutes later, Gorenstein and his fiancé reportedly heard people yelling from above on the trail that they saw a man calling for help waving his arms on the other side of the rocks.
“I was nervous when I got close to him because the water had gotten extremely rough. He looked disoriented. Without getting too close I passed him the float. I towed while he kicked but for some time the current and force of the water got the better of us. I directed him towards the rocks and then closer to the mouth of the bay. I held on the rocks until there was a back current that pulled us around into the bay and then continued to swim us in,” said Gorenstein. “The swimmer wasn’t that far from land but because of the force of the water created by the rock formations at that particular beach at that time this man could have easily lost his life,” he said.
Area residents warn people against the dangers of swimming in areas that they are unfamiliar with, “even if its in your own back yard,” said Gorenstein.
The day before, on Sunday, Feb. 17, the the coast guard was called to Kaihalulu at around 4:15 p.m. for a report of four beachgoers that were swept out to sea. The group was found 1,000 yards offshore with one individual holding on to a yellow-buoy and two others sharing a boogie board as a float. A fourth person was unresponsive in the water.
Coast Guard Sector Honolulu watchstanders issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast and launched a Dolphin crew to assist. The Maui County Department of Fire and Public Safety also sent a helicopter crew and ground responders.
Maui County first responders arrived first and recovered all four beachgoers, according to Coast Guard reports. Crews administered CPR to the unresponsive person and transferred the individual to emergency medical personnel for further care.
Coast Guard crews were reportedly stood down.