Stars highlight rescue tubes

PO‘IPU — Capt. Nicholas Mongillo, commanding officer for the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Mana, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Fire Chief Robert Westerman each had a star, Saturday in Po‘ipu.

The stars represented lives saved and each of the dignitaries took a turn pinning a star to the ceremonial rescue tube during a presentation by the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay on its rescue tube initiative during the state convention of Rotary Clubs at the Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort in Po‘ipu.

Branch Lotspeich of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay said the rescue tube initiative now has participation from all six Rotary clubs on the island and is an outgrowth of the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association project launched three years ago.

The stars being held by the dignitaries represent three lives saved by rescue tubes during a Mar. 27, 2010 incident, Lotspeich said.

“We showed a videotaped interview with Dr. Woody Peeples of Bend, Oregon,” Lotspeich said. “While enjoying a family vacation with his two sons at Hanakapiai Beach, his 10-year-old son was swept out by a rip current.”

The 12-year-old son immediately jumped in in an effort to save his younger brother.

Peeple heard the two yelling for help while being pulled out to sea in the rip current and called for “anything that floats.”

Someone grabbed a rescue tube installed nearby and with it, Peeples swam out to the two boys and was able to get them stablized on the rescue tube while slowly working their way into a shallow cove to await rescue.

Lotspeich said during the tape, Peeples speaks of “bus-high waves pushing them into sheer cliff walls,” but despite these treacherous conditions, lifeguards and firemen were able to perform a lengthy and dangerous rescue, bringing all three to safety.

“We knew we would die without the rescue tube for flotation,” Peeples said in the interview.

Lotspeich said there are now more than 130 rescue tubes installed on Kaua‘i and 37 documented uses resulting in an estimated 10 to 12 lives saved.

“The Rescue Tube Foundation, a non-profit corporation in the state of Hawai‘i, has spun out of the Rotary project and is now promoting the installation of rescue tubes on all Hawaiian Islands, and has begun expansion to the Mainland as well,” Lotspeich said.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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