Hanakapi‘ai drowning victim ID’d

HANAKAPI‘AI — The 25-year-old visitor who drowned Monday morning while swimming at Hanakapi‘ai Beach was identified yesterday by the Kaua‘i Police Department as Klaudiusz Piotr Dragun, of Poland.

The release of Dragun’s identity was delayed while KPD officials, cooperating with the Polish embassy, attempted to establish contact with his next of kin, county spokeswoman Mary Daubert said earlier in the week.

Dragun hiked two miles in to Hanakapi‘ai Valley and decided to jump in the water upon his arrival at the North Shore beach, according to witnesses. Within minutes, he was reportedly overcome by the strong current and swept out to sea.

Someone who saw the incident hiked out and notified lifeguards at Ke‘e Beach around 11:56 a.m.

Air-1 was dispatched to the scene after picking up three rescue specialists.

Ken D’Attillio of Inter-Island Helicopters said he spotted the victim, already floating, within 23 minutes of taking off from Princeville Airport.

Two lifeguards on a Jet Ski were sent out to the victim, about 150 to 200 yards from Hanakapi‘ai Beach, and brought him to Hanalei firefighters who were waiting in Zodiac-1, a county press release said.

The victim was then transported via Zodiac-1 to Black Pot Beach Park in Hanalei.

“We get these big swells, and people aren’t heeding (the warnings) and aren’t watching the ocean,” said D’Attillio, who described the victim as 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 with the look of a strong swimmer. “They’re just going out like it’s any other day and it’s not.”

The National Weather Service had announced a high surf advisory on Sunday.

“A large north-northwest swell continues to produce above-normal surf mainly along the north-facing shores of most of the smaller Hawaiian islands,” said the advisory, posted on the NWS Web site. “Surf heights of 14 to 18 feet will continue along north and west facing shores of Ni‘ihau and Kaua‘i.

“A high surf advisory means that high surf will affect beaches in the advisory area, producing large breaking waves, dangerous rip currents and localized beach erosion. Stay well away from the shore break and do not swim anywhere near the surf zone.”

Dragun’s death marked the fourth drowning death in two days on Kaua‘i as the season’s first major north swell rolled in. Three visitors drowned in two separate incidents Sunday afternoon near Queen’s Bath in Princeville and Kaua‘i Sands in Kapa‘a.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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