ANINI — A woman remains missing after being swept out to sea Monday evening on Kauai’s North Shore.
The Maryland woman entered the water at the north end of Anini Beach during a high surf advisory, according to a preliminary report.
When she became distressed, she called for help. Her friend responded, but got caught in a rip current and also became distressed, the county said.
Witnesses called 911 around 6 p.m. A bystander on a paddle board assisted the distressed male swimmer roughly 150 yards from shore. When emergency personnel arrived, a firefighter on a rescue board helped in bringing the man safely to the beach, while a firefighter on Jet Ski searched for the woman.
The 37-year-old Kapaa man was treated by responding medics and released at the scene.
Fire and Ocean Safety personnel suspended their efforts Tuesday night, but the U.S. Coast Guard continued its search.
County personnel will resume their search this morning.
Ron Wagner, who lives in a house fronting Moloaa Beach, said he and his neighbors rescue swimmers who find themselves in trouble while swimming in the bay.
“We take things seriously here,” he said. “I’ve pulled about a dozen people out, but it doesn’t sink in until you lose one. It’s just terrible.”
He said it’s easy to hear a swimmer in distress calling for help.
“Cries for help, you can hear them over the ocean,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it. There’s always the roar of the ocean, but you can always tell when someone’s in trouble — there’s a certain pitch to it.”
Wagner was home on Jan. 19 when Michael Tremblay was pulled out of the water.
“I talked to the guy one day, and the next day, he’s dead,” Wagner said. “People are here on vacation and to have a good time, not to die.”
Wagner, who has lived in the area for 20 years, said he tries to educate people on the beach about some of the dangers of swimming at that particular beach.
“I warn them not to swim in certain areas, but you can’t catch everyone,” he said. “The ocean is very subtle. It’s on days where it doesn’t look dangerous when you have to be careful. When there’s big surf, no one is going to be in the water, but when there’s medium surf, that’s when things will happen.”
There were two reported drownings on Kauai in January.
On Jan. 11, Philip L. Huffman of San Rafael, Calif., was snorkeling in waters fronting Poipu Beach when a current pulled him toward Waiohai Beach. He became distressed while attempting to swim back to shore.
Emergency personnel brought him to shore, where they started CPR. Huffman, 66, was taken to Wilcox Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Then, about a week later, Tremblay was found unresponsive 150 yards away from Moloaa Beach.
The 64-year-old from Idaho was swimming in the bay when he could no longer be seen from shore. His family became concerned and called 911 for assistance. Tremblay was taken to Wilcox Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
During the winter months, Kauai’s North Shore is known for tumultuous waves. At times, waves can reach heights of 40 feet or greater, said Kalani Vierra, director of the Ocean Safety Bureau.
That is due to a lot of storms that breeze through the area from Japan, said John Heyman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service of Oahu.
“The jet stream goes south and gets stronger, carrying strong storms over the North Pacific,” he said. “The strong winds then create high waves.”
On Kauai, the three most dangerous places on the North Shore are Queen’s Bath, Lumahai and Hanakapiai beaches, Vierra said.
“The strongest rip currents are usually located at sand bottom or sand bars, river mouths, reef channels, or rock jetty locations,” Vierra said. “Remember, the bigger the surf, the stronger the current.”
Big waves generally start hitting the island in November and continue through April, Vierra said.
In an effort to keep unguarded beaches safe, OSB rolled out the roving patrol units in December.
The roving units patrol the north, east and southwest districts and each district unit is be equipped with a truck, Jet Ski and two Ocean Safety Bureau personnel.
Wagner believes education is key to preventing incidents in the ocean. He said he contacted the Kauai Lifeguard Association to get informational signs placed on Moloaa Beach.
“We need to get those signs they have at Kalapakai and Anini,” he said. “They have maps that illustrate the dangers of rip currents.”