Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022 |
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As is my habit, early in the New Year I like to take a few moments to reflect on how the last year went. As far as numbers go, Kauai ended up losing six people to drowning in 2015. (And there is a question regarding a seventh, a young man who died from unclear causes while practicing breath-holding with friends in a private swimming pool). A tragic side note is that Kauai lost 16 people to suicide in 2016 — and that is a whole other very tough story, leaving many devastated families trying to find healing.
Kauai has suffered worse years numbers-wise in terms of drownings, but I’ve come to learn that this isn’t the point. The point is that every single one of these is an unspeakable tragedy for the involved family and if there was some way that six might have been five, it is worth all hands on deck and a lot of money to make that happen.
Two of the drownings took place at Shipwrecks and there might have been several more. Just a few days ago Jacob, one of our ER nurses who is also a highly skilled waterman, saved two people from drowning there. I like to tell people that “near” has become my favorite word in the English language, since if every Kauai near-drowning were a drowning, we would suffer hundreds and hundreds of drownings a year.
Our lifeguards themselves made 156 rescues (through Dec. 15) and performed 113,77 preventions. Of those rescues, 51 were accomplished by Jetski — a phenomenal (and sometimes punishing for the drivers and grabbers) technology that has allowed our brave and skillful lifeguards to rescue many hundreds of people over the years at beaches all around Kauai, including the remote beaches along the Na Pali. Their beach count was just over 2 million beachgoers at lifeguarded beaches alone! Lifeguards: We love you! And again: We love you.
I have never had a clue as to how to estimate the number of beachgoer and surfer-aided rescues that take place each and every day. We love all of you too, beyond what words can express.
What can we do better in 2016?
Our Ocean Safety Bureau is in good hands, under Fire Chief Westerman and Island Supervisor Vierra. The Kauai Lifeguard Association, thanks to extraordinary fundraising efforts and resulting financial donations, is making every effort to support the Bureau, trying to map out and then implement improvements that can be made within the confines of a controlled and responsible budget.
Our “lay” people? I want to tell you an uplifting story about what happened to me on Dec. 28, while I was in line for a cup of coffee at a local eatery. A man named Rich was in front of me in the line, and out of the blue he got telling me about how he is a driver of one of the big tour buses. (These men and women have always had my great respect, not only for their driving ability but also for their amazing ability to speak and entertain while driving). Then Rich went on to say that every time he drives, he takes a few moments to tell his people to be careful in our waters.
Braddah, you made my day, in fact you made my year. This attitude is what many of us have been trying desperately to instill into all of us, into all of our day-to-day people who may have contact with our visitors. You may be working in the “visitor industry,” you may be a waiter or a busboy, you may pump gas, you may be having friends or family here for a visit, you may be a check out clerk at a supermarket, you may be a concierge or a tour bus driver or an activities desk clerk — or you may just be sitting next to someone on an airplane.
Any one of these interactions (and I listed just a few) can become a life saved, a family spared, even though you likely will never really know this. I like to think that your client’s guardian angel knows this and takes a moment to put a check mark by your name for a job well done.
As I close, many individuals come to mind whom I would like to thank for what they have done in 2015 in this area of Kauai ocean safety. I initially wrote down some names and then realized (1) for readers it would get too long and boring, like reading a phone book and (2) I would inevitably omit some highly-deserving individuals and companies. So, generically, I thank all of you who have taken the time or effort or expense to add your piece to this complex jigsaw puzzle. And best wishes to my readers for a safe and mostly happy 2016!
Monty Downs, M.D., is president of the Kauai Lifeguard Association.
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