10 deaths

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    A couple looks out at the strong tide and rip currents at Kealia Beach. Lifeguards posted rip current warning signs to warn visitors and locals of dangerous conditions. The warning signs are one of the safety procedures the county implements to address dangerous conditions on Kauai.

LIHUE — With the news of another outdoor-related death after a climber’s body was recovered April 24 by search and rescue personnel in Waimea Canyon, the outdoor death total for the year now stands at 10.

On Wednesday, the county revealed the man’s identity as 30-year-old Rodel Constantino of Kaumakani. Constantino’s death on April 23 was the second death due to outdoor or recreational activities in a four-day period last month, as a 20-year-old visitor was found on April 19, deceased after snorkeling in waters near Pine Trees in Hanalei.

The two deaths in late April marked the fourth outdoor-related death during the 30-day period. The first came on April 1 when 64-year-old Joseph Nesselroth from Colorado died off the shores of Puu Poa Beach while snorkeling.

The four reported outdoors deaths on Kauai in April come on the heels of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s report on statewide visitor spending during the first quarter of 2019, which totaled $4.5 billion, up 2.4 percent compared to the first quarter of 2018.

The second recreational death in the month of April came when 41-year-old Rashad Riley, a police officer from Santa Monica, was found floating unresponsive off of Shipwreck’s Beach after jumping from the cliffs April 13.

In January, a warning sign was posted by the county on the cliff of the popular spot warning of the dangers involved with jumping off.

“In 2018, there was nine total confirmed drownings and one hiking death,” county spokeswoman Kim Tamaoka said in an email. “In 2019, a total of nine individuals have died in recreational deaths (only five confirmed as drownings).”

In 2017, there were nine total apparent drownings and one hiking-related death.

On March 24, a 53-year-old Spokane, Wash., man, Evan Forsnes, was found floating in Kalapaki Bay. The death marked the fourth recreation-related death in the month of March.

Detectives later investigated Forsnes’ death, and it was reported, “The investigation revealed that the decedent swam from Kalapaki Beach to the red buoy in Kalapaki Bay. The decedent attempted the swim again, where he was witnessed by his wife. The decedent’s wife witnessed the decedent swim to the buoy and, on his way back, she observed her husband start splashing, then suddenly stop.”

The investigation into Forsnes death revealed “the cause of death was determined to be drowning.”

On March 21 while snorkeling in waters off Wailua, 46-year-old Daymion Brown was spotted by two golfers, who witnessed Brown swimming in distress. One of the golfers attempted to swim out to the victim, eventually requiring assistance himself. A second distressed snorkeler was rescued by the Kauai Fire Department’s Ocean Safety Burea lifeguards at the same time. Brown was eventually brought to shore where CPR was administered. He was taken to Wilcox Medical Center where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

On March 17, 60-year-old Jack Odo was found floating in waters near Salt Pond Beach Park, unresponsive. According to the preliminary investigation, Odo was seen camping in the area and “was last seen picking opihi on the rocks.”

The final investigation in Odo’s death termed it “accidental.” The report also stated that Odo had been camping overnight in the Salt Pond Beach Park near Hanapepe. His girlfriend reportedly “lost sight of him for 10 to 15 minutes,” and was later located by bystanders, one of which pulled him from the water and began performing CPR until medics arrived.

On March 14, Daniel St. John was found unconscious near Ho‘opi‘i Falls. St. John had allegedly taken the dive off the falls, sustaining massive head trauma. St. John was eventually airlifted to Wilcox Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased upon arrival. An autopsy later revealed that “the decedent died of head and neck trauma.”

The April and March 2019 outdoor-related death toll stands at eight individuals, with 10 total for the year thus far. Compared to the total of 2018 which saw 10 reported drownings, this year has already reached that plateau.

“We have had anywhere from four to 12 drownings a year with one of the highest being 17 drownings in the calendar year 2013,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. “We do our best to educate visitors, make people aware of the conditions and discourage people going to places that are trespassing, going past signage, barriers and guard rails that are there for a reason.”

They are also working on a series of water- and hiking-safety videos.

The County of Kauai has implemented many new safety precautions at popular beaches like Anini on the North Shore.

In addition to an added roving unit and lifeguard tower at Anini Beach, there is a safety video that plays on a constant loop at Lihue Airport, warning visitors of the dangers of recreational activities on the island, most of all snorkeling.

“We’re also looking at extending our roaming patrol hours,” OSB Supervisor Kalani Vierra said.

The roaming unit consists of a team of two to three lifeguards equipped with a 4×4 truck, a Jet Ski, and a trailer. The roving unit acts as a mobile lifeguard tower and patrols beaches to assist with ocean rescues and prevention efforts.

The addition of the roaming units has yeilded some positive results since March. Vierra said the roaming unit is constantly performing rescue actions and informing visitors of condition risks.

In February, there was one drowning when a German tourist was pulled from the waters off Anahola Beach on Feb. 21. The man was reportedly surfing when he lost his surfboard. Lifeguards pulled him from the water and performed CPR on the unresponsive man. He was transported to Wilcox where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

On Jan. 30, 31-year-old Jonathan Seim of Washington died while swimming in the waters off of Secret Beach.

The County of Kauai has taken steps to warn visitors and locals alike about the recreation-related dangers such as jumping off of Shipwreck’s Beach and going to Queen’s Bath by putting up signs and fences, but many simply ignore the warnings.

Dr. Monty Down, president of the Kauai Lifeguard Association, doesn’t like to focus on numbers when it comes to recreational deaths on Kauai, but rather sees it as a day-to-day process that takes constant effort and dedication.

“It’s painful,” Downs said of the total this year. “We keep trying and trying and so I can’t point to why our numbers are worse with all the efforts we are making.”

Downs doesn’t think more radical approaches are needed to prevent recreational deaths but thinks people need to be aware of the dangers that do exist.

“I don’t know about more extreme, just better, just more,” Downs said. “Just somehow we try to get into hotel rooms with brochures and try and work with resorts and housekeeping.”

Downs suggested a full-time prevention employee for the county.

“Every day is different,” Downs said. “You can have a really good day of getting the message out and then a week later it’s a whole ‘nother batch of people on the island that don’t know the dangers.”

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Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or rcollins@thegardenisland.com.

5 Comments
  1. ruthann jones May 5, 2019 5:24 am Reply

    racism toward haoles and dangerous waters….maybe time to book vacations elsewhere. Locals will welcome the ol’ plantation days again.


  2. truth be known May 5, 2019 7:22 am Reply

    Snorkelers, especially ones new to the sport, would do themselves a big favor by buying a good quality self-closing snorkel that would prevent water from entering the snorkel due to wave action. Inhaling water through a snorkel can panic even an experienced snorkeler.


    1. Melissa May 5, 2019 5:13 pm Reply

      Good point on investing in better snorkeling gear! Not that much more $, and worth it!


  3. Tim May 5, 2019 8:49 am Reply

    Darwinism works


  4. evelyn harris May 5, 2019 9:27 am Reply

    the video loop that plays at airport baggage claim is not effective because people are focused on looking for their lugguage. the video needs to be played on all incoming flights to kauai along with flyers that are handed out on the plane


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