After paddling to victory Saturday afternoon on the North Shore, Kekaha resident Darren Gonsalves was in the water helping his Hanalei Canoe Club teammates prior to the start of the next race.
But on his return swim to the shore fronting Hanalei pavilion, the 46-year-old athlete suffered an apparent heart attack, witnesses said yesterday.
“He wasn’t a spectator,” Gonsalves’ nephew Lopaka Nakaahiki-Bukoski said. “He was assisting the woman’s group with their canoe.”
“He was holding the flag before they started the race,” said Gonsalves’ brother Dayne Gonsalves.
Born and raised on Kaua‘i, Gonsalves won the Novice B Men’s race earlier in the day, Nakaahiki-Bukoski said.
His son, Jared, lives on O‘ahu along with his grandson, Davin, he said.
His cousin, Leon, is a Kaua‘i Police commissioner.
A county news release Monday states as Gonsalves headed to the beach, people in the area saw him go under. They dove in, located Gonsalves and brought him to shore on a surfboard.
Rescue personnel performed CPR on Gonsalves on the beach and medics continued resuscitation efforts en route to Mahelona Medical Center in Kapa‘a where he was pronounced dead.
“When we went to the hospital, they found that he didn’t have too much water in his lungs, so he didn’t drown. If anything, he probably had a stroke or an aneurysm,” brother Dayne said.
“He was complaining about headaches and stuff for a time. He just went to the doctor to see what was wrong.”
In 1980, Darren Gonsalves graduated from Waimea High School, where he was an elite athlete who ran the 100 meter dash in 9.8 seconds, good enough for No. 1 in the state, said his brother.
After a stint in the Navy that allowed him to travel around the world twice, according to Dayne, Darren returned to Kaua‘i and continued to enjoy “running, biking, canoeing, basketball and running track.”
“He was very active, very physically fit,” said Nakaahiki-Bukoski.
“It (canoeing) was culture,” explained Dayne. “We (Hawaiian ancestors) traveled from island to island in canoe.”