PRINCEVILLE — A 23-year-old California woman was swept offshore Wednesday while posing for a photograph at Queen’s Bath. The search for her body has so far been unsuccessful.
The woman — on vacation from Los Angeles with her boyfriend and two other friends — reportedly hiked down a dirt trail, past a gate with signs warning of dangerous surf, to the rocky outcropping sometime on Wednesday morning, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials who responded to the scene.
Just before noon, as the woman’s friends watched, a big wave crashed into the rocks, sweeping her away and then carrying her west along the shore, according to Justin Shakleford, a senior chief with the Coast Guard.
Two other people standing nearby “saw her face in the water momentarily, and then she was gone,” said Shakleford.
Her friends lost sight of her briefly, then spotted an arm reaching up out of the ocean, Shakleford said. Later, they caught one last glimpse of her body floating facedown before it was sucked under.
According to a spokesperson with the Coast Guard, the woman’s friends kept sight of her for about five minutes, spotting her white bathing suit in the dark water. Details remain unclear, but at some point “it sounds like she may have hit her head,” the spokesperson said.
Kauai Fire Department Ocean Safety Bureau officers were the first responders. Battalion Chief Solomon Kanoho said they began the search on Jet Skis, working their way along the shore and were eventually joined by a KFD helicopter
The Coast Guard — called in for assistance around noon by the KFD — sent a 45-foot boat from Lihue and a helicopter from Air Station Barber’s Point, which deployed a self-locating datum marker buoy — a tool used in ocean search and rescue missions to determine the likely location of a drifting body.
The SLDMB is designed to float in the water like a human being. So the search team drops it where the missing person was last seen. As the buoy is carried by the ocean current, it transmits tracking data back to the responding team via satellite. As of 6 p.m., the buoy had not helped to locate the woman, but the Coast Guard helicopter and boat tracking the SLDMB were last seen heading west from Queen’s Bath.
The Coast Guard search — covering 17 square nautical miles — ended at sunset. The fire department continued for a short time longer, but eventually suspended their efforts as well.
Kanoho said the KFD will pick up the search again this morning, but did not seem optimistic about the prospect of finding the woman alive. “I can’t even tell you how many people have died out here over the years,” he said. “Too many to count.”
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.