County lifeguards make saves in huge north surf, freshwater

It wasn’t just the monster northwest swell keeping county lifeguards busy at Hanalei and Ha’ena yesterday and last weekend.

Ha’ena Beach Park lifeguard Jeff McIntosh responded to a distress call yesterday at Tunnels near Ha’ena, after a 38-year-old male visitor from Salem, Ore. had gotten sucked seaward by currents accompanying waves 10 to 15 feet.

A surfer and another passerby brought the man safely to shore. North Shore beaches were closed to swimmers and snorkelers, with only experienced surfers allowed to journey out, said Kalani Vierra, Kauai Fire Department Ocean Safety Bureau supervisor.

McIntosh responded to a situation Saturday much more dicey, as 10 O’ahu visitors had gone swimming at Waikapalae Cave, known as “The Blue Room” or “The Blue Cave” because of the way the sun sometimes illuminates the freshwater pool at the bottom of the cave.

Vierra said there have been drownings there over the past few years.

One of the visitors became disoriented, then panicked, and was endangering the friends who were trying to save him until one of them finally was able to pin the disoriented and exhausted swimmer against a cave wall with his head above the water, said Bob Kaden, Kauai Fire Department battalion chief.

McIntosh responded from nearby Ha’ena Beach Park, got a rescue tube to the original victim, and was successful also in getting the rest of the party out of the water, Kaden said.

Also on Saturday, Hanalei Bay experienced 40-foot waves, the beach was closed, but tow-in surfing was taking place at the break known as “Futures” near the beach at the Princeville Resort.

A jet ski became disabled after its tow rope was sucked into the impeller. The two men aboard, including Mike Perius of the North Shore, abandoned the boat when large waves came crashing onto it, Vierra said.

The Hanalei lifeguards aboard a jet ski rescued the two men, and successfully towed the disabled jet ski into the Hanalei River.

Vierra is pleased with the efforts of county lifeguards not only in the most recent rescues, but all year long.

“The lifeguards, I feel, have been doing an excellent job the past few months. Our drowning rate has dropped 66 percent from the previous years,” said Vierra.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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