Maui News

Snorkel Safety Study Releases Findings on Snorkel-Related Drownings, Launches Survey for Additional Data

January 15, 2021, 10:14 AM HST
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  • Courtesy Snorkel Safety Study / Hawai‘i State Department of Health.
  • Courtesy Snorkel Safety Study / Hawai‘i State Department of Health.
  • Courtesy Snorkel Safety Study / Hawai‘i State Department of Health.
  • Courtesy Snorkel Safety Study / Hawai‘i State Department of Health.
  • Courtesy Snorkel Safety Study / Hawai‘i State Department of Health.
  • Courtesy Snorkel Safety Study / Hawai‘i State Department of Health.

The Snorkel Safety Study released the first phase findings of its study to determine the risk factors associated with snorkel-related fatal and non-fatal drownings in Hawai‘i.

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health established the Snorkel Safety Sub-Committee in October of 2017 to address public concern about snorkel-related drownings. This Sub-Committee proposed a Snorkel Safety Study, in cooperation with Hawai‘i State Department of Health, Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Honolulu Medical Examiner Office, and Friends of Hanauma Bay.

The study is now entering phase two and is urging anyone who has had trouble while snorkeling or been with someone who has had trouble while snorkeling to take the Snorkel Safety Survey here.  Organizers say understanding more about why this happens could avert future drownings. 

Study Findings 

With the first phase of the study complete, certain risk factors have been identified

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“Snorkeling isn’t the low-risk activity everyone thinks it is,” said Carol Wilcox, Snorkel Safety Study program manager. “Roughly an equal number of residents and visitors drown each year in Hawai‘i’s oceans, however the vast majority of visitor drownings are while snorkeling, yet very few residents drown while snorkeling. Why is that?” 

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Emergency responders statewide see snorkelers in distress daily, numerous times throughout the day. They’ve reported that when snorkelers get into trouble, it’s very subtle most of the time and therefore the causes are mysterious.

“Snorkeling is something that is perceived and advertised as easy to do, but in actuality, it’s an activity that is the lead cause of drowning in visitors,” according to data gathered by the Department of Health. 

About the Snorkel Safety Study 

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The study has four components: the snorkel airways resistance analyzer “SARA” investigation, the medical examiner’s office reports investigation, case studies investigation, and the Snorkel Safety Survey.

The study team is Project Administrator Ralph Goto, Principal Investigator Philip Foti, M.D., and Project Manager Carol Wilcox.

In January 2019, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority funded the Snorkel Safety Study. The study findings will be used to determine the causes and risk factors associated with snorkel-related fatal and non-fatal ocean drownings in Hawai‘i and develop appropriate safety messages for the public.

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