Ready for the real deal

  • John Steinhorst/The Garden Island

    Kauai fire department assistant chief, Dean Lake, and US Coast Guard sector commander, Capt. Michael Long, celebrate a successful collaboration after the simulated search and rescue exercise.

  • John Steinhorst/The Garden Island

    Kauai Ocean Safety’s Justin Tabalno and Kalani Vierra use one of the three jetski rescue crafts deployed for Thursday’s search and rescue exercise off Poipu.

LIHUE — A mannequin went overboard in eight-foot seas off Poipu.

But not for long.

A whole lot of people were looking for it.

The US Coast Guard, Kauai fire and police departments, and Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services found it.

“It’s very important that we do this type of exercise to get all the different agencies together and be on the same page and make sure we doing our job correctly,” said Kalani Vierra, head of Kauai Ocean Rescue.

The massive search was part of a training program from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday that ended near Kukuiula Small Boat Harbor.

Local agencies worked together to test inter-agency communications, response plans and responders’ action during the simulated exercise of a missing mariner.

“The intent of the exercise is to practice what we do before we’re involved with the real deal,” said US Coast Guard command duty officer, Charles Turner from the Sector Honolulu-Command Center on Oahu.

Rescuers faced rough seas with 20 knot winds as they tried to find the 100-pound mannequin drifting in the water.

The mannequin’s last known position was about one mile south of Makawana Point, and it drifted more than two miles for two hours before rescue teams received the call. Rescue helicopters located the mannequin within a half hour and diverted surface resources to the location.

The Ocean Rescue Jet Ski crew recovered the mannequin and met with the Coast Guard boat before hoisting it in the helicopter.

Agencies collaborated assets with a 45-foot response boat from Coast Guard Station Kauai at Nawiliwili, a helicopter aircrew from the Coast Guard Air Station on Barbers Point, a Rescue Company and Air 1 helicopter air crew from the county fire department, three Jet Ski response crafts from Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services, and local emergency vehicles on standby.

“We’re exercising how we respond to these things, practicing command and control, utilizing our resources and just doing it,” said Dean Lake, assistant chief for Kauai fire department. “It’s not too often that we have big instances like this, so it’s good to do it every once in awhile and have a real-life kind of situation.”

Each agency holds special capabilities that bolster the overall success of the SAR system.

“We take in account the currents, the wind, what the search object is, and we plug it into a computer system and it will give us a probability where the search object is,” said Coast Guard Station Kauai senior petty officer, Michael Winiarski. “But then some of the local knowledge comes in.”

After successful completion of the exercise, Coast Guard sector commander Capt. Michael Long presented an engraved Hawaiian paddle to the fire department and ocean rescue for helping maritime search and rescue missions from January 2014 to May 2017 by rescuing more than 190 people in water surrounding Kauai.

“With search and rescue, no one agency or organization can do it by themselves, especially with these challenging conditions,” said Long. “This is an opportunity for us to work together and hone our skills, so that in a real life situation we can be more effective.”


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