Three new hires to the current staff of water safety officers and lifeguards were honored along with four promotions in a ceremony at the Lihu‘e Civic Center, Friday morning.
Randy Ortiz was promoted to training officer, Norman Hunter was named the East District supervisor, Gerald Hurd was named Southwest District supervisor and Mark McKamey was named the North District supervisor.
Additionally, three new water safety officers were recognized by Mayor Bill “Kaipo” Asing at the ceremony.
The new hires are water safety officer Jeffery McIntosh and lifeguards Jeffery Maddox and Garret Stephens.
“The Ocean Safety Bureau has really grown,” Supervising Officer Kalani Vierra said. “We now have 45 people on staff and 10 lifeguard towers to man. I’m very happy with the expansion. It’s helping us to better manage the organization.”
Stephens and McIntosh are recent Kapa‘a High School graduates, and Maddox is from Garden Grove, Calif. All three new lifeguards participated in Junior Lifeguard programs.
Ortiz was born and raised on Kaua‘i and has been with the Ocean Safety Bureau for 18 years. Prior to his promotion, he was the West District supervisor.
“I love being around the ocean and helping people,” Ortiz said.
Hunter, a familiar figure at the Lydgate tower, is also a long-time employee of the Ocean Safety Bureau, having served as a water safety officer for 17 years before being promoted.
“I enjoy helping people and talking to visitors,” Hunter said.
Hurd is a Kaua‘i native and has eight years of service in the bureau.
McKamey, born in Illinois but raised on Kaua‘i and an 18-year veteran of the bureau, according to the release, will take over the district where three drownings occurred in two days earlier this month during the North Shore’s first large swell of the winter.
On Oct. 12, sisters-in-law Tonya Cataldo, 39, of Parker, Colo., and Heather Westphal, 33, of Washington, D.C., were walking along a ledge in Princeville’s Queen’s Bath area when a large wave swept them out to sea, according to county officials.
One day later, 25-year-old Klaudiusz Piotr Dragun of Poland was swept out to sea and drowned off Hanakapia‘i Beach. Both of the spots are secluded, and neither are guarded by water safety personnel.
“Because we have Jetskis, we respond to the whole district, but pretty much we’re stationed at a particular site. Unfortunately, a lot of those places, by the time the phone call is made, it’s too late,” McKamey said yesterday in an interview with The Garden Island.
McKamey noted the North Shore’s four guarded beach locations — surf spot “Pinetrees,” the Pavilion at Hanalei Bay, Ha‘ena Beach Park and Ke‘e Beach — and said 13 lifeguards would be watching those spots from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. seven days each week, with the possibility of staying later on days with particularly large waves.
McKamey said that those spots are guarded because they’re relatively safe and he believes encouraging families and tourists to go to the guarded, safe beaches is a preventative measure that can reduce the need for emergency water rescues.
Asked what could be done to protect people at unguarded locations like Queen’s Bath, McKamey mentioned county signs encouraging water safety and said providing better education and information is key, noting that guards occasionally Jetski to Queen’s Bath specifically to discourage visitors from walking too close to the edge.
“It’s hard, it’s just like all the other remote places on Kaua‘i. It’s impossible to cover it all,” he said. “Even with all our efforts these things still happen, and it’s frustrating.”
• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at email@example.com