Swim turns tragic

A 49-year-old visitor from Kentucky drowned at Donkey Beach north of Kapa’a on the East Shore while swimming in high surf Sunday some time after 3 p.m.

At the time emergency crews were contacted to respond to the scene, the man was reported to be fighting currents and surf 50 yards off the beach.

According to scanner traffic, by the time emergency crews were able to reach the fairly remote beach just before 3:30 p.m., bystanders were performing CPR on the drowning victim on the shore.

“When the first rescuers arrived, he was still conscious,” said county spokesperson Mary Daubert. “But then he went unconscious and they were unable to revive him.”

He was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later.

The drowning victim’s name was not released pending notification of family.

“Kapa’a Fire Station 2, as well as lifeguards from the tower at Kealia (Beach) responded to the call at 3:30 p.m.,” Daubert said by phone.

The call came in as a distressed swimmer 50 yards off the beach. Daubert said bystanders were able to get him to the beach still alive, but were unable to stabilize him.

The beach is about a 10-minute hike from the Kuhio Highway near the 11-mile marker north of Kapa’a. The first rescuers reached the scene by ATV from Kealia Beach.

A continued pulse of energy out of the northeast sent wave heights Sunday into the 7 to 10 foot range on east-facing beaches that combined with the trade winds to make conditions treacherous for swimming, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Web site.

The shore at Donkey Beach is steep, resulting in a pounding shorebreak, and a backwash that creates treacherous currents during high surf periods.

The drowning at Donkey Beach is the second drowning on the island this year.

The first one occurred on the Wailua River Jan. 6 when Joseph Medeiros of Lihu’e capsized in a small boat he was piloting shuttling workers to the Fern Grotto.

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