KALALAU — The danger of rushing river water can never be overstated.
Yet, too often, some people under- estimate its force, power and peril.
“There was a girl in her early 20s last summer who was trying to cross one of the streams of Kalalau and she died trying to get to work at one of the health food stores,” said Jenn Tyler, a Red Cross lifeguard instructor, who recently came up with a safety idea to prevent drownings in the North Shore hiking spot. “I knew if there was a rescue throw bag it could have helped her.”
In order to help Kauai’s hikers in the future, Tyler and her friend, Siri Shabad, posted an emergency responder’s orange throw bag with 90 feet of rescue rope and a lifeguard’s pink aquatic whistle next to two rescue tubes stationed at the Hanakapiai Stream crossing at the Kalalau Trail.
Kalalau Trail, which was closed last Tuesday due to swollen rivers but reopened Wednesday, is about two and half miles from the popular hiking trailhead.
“I thought ‘I don’t want to see anyone else having a drowning fatality, so let’s go out and put one of those throw bags up,’” Tyler said. “I just wanted to try this one first because I know Hanakapiai is dangerous.”
Having been a lifeguard instructor for 23 years, Tyler understands the dangers of flooding waters and said the first line of defense is to never cross any stream during a flash flood. Rather, hikers should wait out the swollen rivers in safety, even if it means bunking down longer than they expected.
However, if hikers should cross a flooded stream, the throw bag, whistle and rescue tubes will be there for their safety. The instructions on how to use the throw bag are located on the device.
“Most people misjudge a flash flooding river,” she said. “They get into a river that’s waist deep when it’s flash flooding and they lose their footing and they smash their head on a rock and they become helpless.”
In addition to being a lifeguard instructor, Tyler was also a founder of the Kauai Rescue Tube Project in 2007, which helped save a person’s life a week after its installation.
Tyler said that she would like to put other rescue throw bags on trails across the island in the future and possibly involve other people who wish to help. The bags are currently $40 and can be purchased online.
“My life mission is to help save peoples’ lives and make a success story out of a tragedy,” she said.