Rescue tubes to be used on Maui

LIHUE — Maui County is moving forward with a life-saving initiative that will bring rescue tubes to several beaches on the island.

The initiative was first launched on Kauai and Hawaii Island. Maui County approved the rescue tubes earlier this year and beachgoers can expect to see them placed on beaches along the island’s south shore by the end of the month.

Branch Lotspeich, executive director of the Rescue Tube Foundation, Inc. on Kauai, said they were successful getting rescue tubes installed on Hawaii Island about five years ago.

About three years ago, he was invited by Maui’s Rotary Club to speak about the importance of rescue tubes “so that everyone on Maui could understood what was going on,” he said.

Lotspeich said rescue tubes are inexpensive and effective.

There are about 240 rescue tubes on beaches around Kauai.

“We know about 150 rescues that have taken place on Kauai since these have been going up and it’s a very satisfying and rewarding thing since everyone has been rescued,” he said. “It’s probably the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done in my life.”

The tubes can be thrown out to a person in distress or used by a rescuer to swim to the victim.

State Department of Health statistics show there were 114 drownings on Maui between 2005 and 2014. Nearly 30 percent of those happened on the south side of the island.

“There is a well-known rip current that it takes so much people out into the ocean unexpectedly,” said Colin Yamamoto, battalion chief for Maui Ocean Safety.

Members of the Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea have been behind the rescue tube effort. Lotspeich said this is only the beginning for the expansion of rescue tubes.

“We have rescue tubes on coastlines in North Carolina, Florida, South Dakota on a large lake, we’re talking to people in California, in Japan and in China,” Lotspeich said. “So something that started out right here on Kauai has reached out to the mainland and, in all likelihood, by next year on an international basis.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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