Tourists save tourists

LIHUE — A Wisconsin couple is thankful to be alive after nearly drowning in the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa’s saltwater lagoon nearly two weeks ago while on a trip to Kauai.

The couple, who were vacationing with about 300 people from Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., said the incident happened around midday on April 24 while they were wading in the far west end of the manmade lagoon.

Chris Laughnan said he and his wife Brianah were walking along the lagoon’s shallow edge in about four feet of water because he could not swim before he accidentally slipped into deeper water.

Chris Laughnan said his wife yelled for help and tried to rescue him but she too became stuck after he accidentally pulled her in and she dislocated her shoulder.

Two other members of their business group, Mike and Lori Kurek, said they were walking along the opposite side of the lagoon when they heard screams for help and jumped in immediately.

“I just went in — it was like that,” Mike Kurek said from his home in St. Petersburg, Fla. “There wasn’t any time to react — I had a T-shirt and flip flops on and I flipped them off, I took my glasses off and I was in.”

While he was in the water, Mike Kurek said he worked to calm Chris Laughnan, who was struggling to stay afloat, and guide Brianah to the lagoon’s edge.

“I don’t know how many minutes it was, but man, it happened so fast,” Kurek said.

As he was helping Brianah ashore, Mike Kurek said his wife jumped in after seeing Chris slip below the water’s surface about four feet away.

“At that point, that was pretty much it,” Mike Kurek said about the moment when he and his wife brought Chris ashore. “We were all out of gas right there.”

Paramedics rushed Chris and Brianah to the hospital shortly afterward where they were treated and released within a few hours.

Officials from neither the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa nor the Kauai Police Department could confirm details about the apparent near drowning.

“I’m just thankful that I was there for them,” Kurek said. “I’m not sure if it was the Hawaiian gods looking over me or what, but it must have been, because if it had just been a minute later, there would have been two bodies floating in that pool.”

Chris Laughnan and Mike Kurek said the incident may have been avoided if there were markers in the saltwater lagoon to indicate changes in depth.

The Laughnans, who returned to Wisconsin about a week ago, said they are still being treated for their medical injuries but are thankful for the swift actions of their new friends.

“We’re very happy that the Kureks — Mike and Lori — came to our rescue,” Chris Laughnan said. “We’re completely surprised that someone would jump in without knowing what’s going on or knowing how deep it is. We’re just very happy that they were considerate enough to be able to do that, so we’re very appreciative of that.”

• Darin Moriki, county government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com. Follow him on Twitter at @darinmoriki.

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