Woman drowns off Lumahai

LUMAHAI — A 31-year-old New York woman drowned Monday afternoon off Lumahai Beach on Kauai’s North Shore.

Witnesses called 911 about 4 p.m. when they noticed a female being swept out to sea from the mouth of the Lumahai River. Lifeguards from the Hanalei Pavilion tower responded to the scene within minutes via jet ski.

The woman was located unresponsive in the water, about 200 yards east of the river mouth. Lifeguards brought the woman to shore and began administering CPR with the help of Hanalei firefighters.

A bystander with a pickup truck helped rescuers transport the woman from the beach to a parking lot, where medics continued CPR. She was transported to Wilcox Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Police said the woman was alone when she tried to cross the river, apparently lost her footing and was swept out.

Kauai’s fifth drowning this year comes just days before a major fundraiser for the Kauai Lifeguard Association. The sold-out Third Wave Celebration is Saturday at the Kauai Beach Resort.

Water safety officials continue to preach and promote a message that the ocean is dangerous and people must take precautions before entering it.

Under KLA’s list of why people drown, crossing treacherous streams is one of them.

Earlier this year, KLA released its updated “Kauai Beach Guide.” On its cover, the top word, above “Beaches” and “Fun,” is “Hazards.” Turn the page, and the words, “Beautiful. Dangerous,” are there in bold capital letters.

KLA President Monty Downs said the organization decided to make it loud and clear to guests that Kauai’s beaches are dangerous and attention must be paid to them.

KLA had 250,000 of the colorful brochures printed up at a cost of $27,000. They are available at the Lihue Airport and at resorts throughout the island.

“People should look at them,” Downs said.

A six-minute water safety video also plays on a continuous loop in both of Lihue Airport’s baggage claim areas.

But not everyone sees the video or the brochures and may not be aware of the power of the ocean’s currents and realize that rogue waves can sweep them from rocks.

“That’s the challenge,” Downs said. “We can say it today, but tomorrow, a whole new wave of visitors is coming in.”

There are more than 220 rescue tubes, flotation devices to help distressed swimmers, installed around Kauai, including one at Lumahai Beach. If someone can’t swim, they are urged to not use the rescue tube to try and save someone, but instead, try and get help and call 911.

Downs said when someone drowns, it hurts, especially when you’re in the ocean safety business.

“You’re going to get knocked down because it’s a rough ocean all the time, every day,” he said. “You put your heart and soul into it.”

He said KLA will continue to work hard to find something that will catch visitors’ attention, alert them to ocean dangers, so they will be safe as possible while on Kauai’s beaches.

“There’s definitely more we can do to try and get the word out,” Downs said. “Obviously, we didn’t do enough in (this) case.”

Jim Jung of the Kauai Lifeguard Association will be speaking to students at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on water safety Friday. He’ll explain how to avoid getting into trouble in the ocean, what to do if trapped in a rip current, and demonstrate how to use a rescue tube.

While Jung and other KLA members recommend people swim only in lifeguarded areas, they also realize that’s not always going to happen, as guests like to explore Kauai’s many beautiful beaches.

“They love Lumahai,” Jung said. “It is a popular beach, but it can be dangerous in the winter time.”

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