Dave Allred, a visitor from Martinez, Calif., sat with his wife and two infant children at the western end of ‘Anini Beach yesterday afternoon when he had to make a life and death decision.
He had to decide whether to stay with his family or try to help a female snorkeler from Calgary, Canada, who had been swept out into a channel by strong currents and toward 12 -to 18-foot waves and waved desperately for help.
He chose the latter.
Finding a broken, splintered surfboard shortly before 1 p.m., he paddled out into the channel and stabilized Hana Gerba amid churning water until a Hanalei firefighter on a surfboard and two county water safety officers aboard a Sea-Doo and sled rescued them.
Once firefighter Adam Hussey stabilized Allred and Gerbar, Chris Pico, aboard the Sea-Doo, and James Ingham, in a tow sled, transported them back to shore.
Hanalei fire Capt. Kurt Leong said both were in good condition, although Allred was treated for minor cuts from laying on the broken fiberglass board with splintered edges.
“We checked them out, and they are physically fine,” Leong said.
He praised the county rescue personnel for their work, but gave special praise to Allred.
“He had a choice between staying with his family, and he choose a stranger,” Leong said. “He was the real hero. He saved her life.”
Leong said Gerba was snorkeling over the reef before 1 p.m. when she got caught in strong currents and “was sucked out through the channel.”
Janine Sprout, a part-time resident and travel writer who was at ‘Anini updating “Kauai Trailblazers,” a recreational guide book, with her husband, Jerry, said they were on the beach at the time and could see Gerba bob in rough waters 500 feet from shore.
“She was struggling,” Sprout said.
She said a man she believed was a friend of Gerba came out of the water with a speargun, waved and yelled “help, help.”
“People on the beach wanted to help and they grabbed their cell phones,” she said. A resident across the street called 911 at her husband’s request, Sprout said.
She saw Allred dart mauka across a road and find the broken surfboard in someone’s yard.
“He went like hell in the water and reached the woman” at 1:05 p.m., Sprout said.
“He rode the rip current” to get to her, she said.
Four Hanalei firefighters arrived at the beach shortly after 1 p.m., including Hussey, who grabbed a department surfboard from an emergency vehicle and swam out to Allred and Gerba and kept them from drifting out to sea, Leong said.
Allred and Gerba had a chance to reflect on the near-tragedy at the beach, Leong said.
“They were still down their cruising, and she was praising him for saving her life,” he said.
• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or firstname.lastname@example.org.