Letters for Thursday, February 21, 2013
I lived Koke‘e history • A look at drownings • Drowning is preventable
I lived Koke‘e history
I enjoy reading “Island History” but was disappointed with the inaccuracies and incompleteness in the Kalalau Lookout story (TGI, Feb. 17).
My own memory may be off a bit, but allow me to comment, having spent a good deal of my boyhood at Koke‘e and at the ranger station there. During WWII the U.S. Army may well have replaced the trail to the lookout with a Jeep road/trail, but that did not avail the lookout to auto traffic. Basically, one still had to hike 100 yards or so from the vicinity of the radar station (which is still an abomination!) through the ohia and uluhe forest to get there.
The gateway to the improved lookout in 1947 was not arched, but a sturdy ohia log suspended ranch style (horizontally), and from which hung a rustic sign proclaiming “Kalalalu Lookout, Elevation 4000, Na Pali Kona Forest Reserve.”
At the lookout itself, the new railings were not of sugi pine but of natural ohia logs (from which vandals quickly stripped off the bark and carved their initials). Previously, the lookout had consisted of a bare dirt mound fronted by a rickety fence of wizened ohia sticks designed to warn of the precipice just beyond, but not to stop anyone from falling through.
My biggest disappointment was that after mentioning of Erik Knudsen and the numerous local politicians there, there is no mention of who actually built the new lookout.
It was local boy and forest ranger Joe Souza, and crew, who did it. (Jack of all trades Souza also personally bulldozed much of the ill conceived road past the park on toward Ha‘ena). Souza had some training in forest work at Yosemite and maybe Yellowstone, but had no formal college type ranger education.
The new Kalalau Lookout reflected his experiences in the national parks. Previous to his Koke‘e ranger job, he was a lineman for Kaua‘i Electric (or Kaua‘i Telephone?).
Later, Joe Souza became the superintendent of parks for the state of Hawai‘i.
San Diego, Calif.
A look at drownings
That there have been six drownings this year to date is much in the news. A lengthy column was written by a true Kaua‘i hero, Monty Downs, M.D., head of the emergency room at Wilcox Memorial Hospital and president of local and very active water safety organizations, for example.
I noted that of the six drownings five of six were over 50 years old, and some were in their 60’s and 70’s. This group has an increased risk of heart attack. One, Waimea Rick, an iconic surfer, was recovering from shoulder problems, I was told by a close friend and fellow surfer, and in his eagerness to surf the big waves, may well have ventured out sooner than his medical condition warranted.
All were reported as drownings. However, if the five were caught in a rip tide, became tired, or otherwise, could that have led to fatigue, panic, which then caused a heart attack. In this speculation, they would have drowned as a result of their heart condition, yet because they were in the ocean, it is classified as a drowning.
Were autopsy’s performed? Since the five were tourists, maybe not, as their grieving friends and family would be focused on removing the deceased home for burial.
As a point of information, there has existed for many years an exceptional pamphlet describing Kaua‘i’s ocean dangers. Is this still in print and if so is it properly and extensively distributed, or lost in the maze of kiosks at the airport selling island adventures? Could it be handed out on all incoming flights by supplying the airlines with an inventory?
Such a pamphlet would certainly be of greater value than the silly agricultural and marketing document, required of every incoming airline passenger. Perhaps it has been suppressed by tourism authorities as it is a frightening albeit informative read, and may have a negative effect on tourist visits in the future.
And finally, our ocean safety leaders should not feel responsible for drownings when they have been perhaps the most proactive, thorough and diligent of any such organizations in the country.
Drowning is preventable
Mahalo to TGI for Sunday’s (Sept. 17) informative discussion of drowning on Kaua‘i. Drowning is preventable. It’s as simple as swim near a lifeguard! Hundreds of lives have been saved by our skillful and knowledgeable lifeguards by providing information and making actual rescues.
We read the statistics of the folks who did not heed this advice and feel saddened, frustrated and powerless. We should be thinking about all who survived their ocean experience.
The Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association has sponsored many programs and projects to mitigate the risk of drowning. The Junior Lifeguard Program, the Rescue Tube Project, the Kaua‘i Beach Guide, the WAVE Project, which trains hotel staff to inform guests of beach safety, the recently installed Warning Sign at Waiohai showing where the rip currents are and how to escape them, the soon to be installed airport baggage claim area television monitors, which will show ocean safety messages, the Beach Guardian Program, which trains surfers and others in ocean rescues and the KLA displays and distribution of ocean safety literature at community events.
The KLA is saddened and frustrated, but not powerless.
We are determined to continue to actively pursue our mission to reduce the number of drownings on Kaua‘i.
For folks with computer access, visit KauaiExplorer.com for the location of lifeguarded beaches and up to date information on ocean conditions. I’ve designed and distributed a poster called Beach Safety for keiki.
Adults should also follow these simple rules:
1. Learn to swim.
2. Swim near a lifeguard.
3. Swim with adult supervision.
4. Swim with a buddy.
5. Call for help if your buddy is missing.
6. Obey all posted warning signs.
Hopefully, the keiki and their parents will follow these rules and share them with the visitors who use our beaches.
Vice President KLA