O‘ahu man drowns at Hanakapi‘ai Beach

LIHU‘E — An O‘ahu man died Sunday afternoon of an apparent drowning while swimming at Hanakapi‘ai Beach in Ha‘ena.

Kaua‘i Police Department identified the swimmer as Jeremy Kanoa Hughes, 43, of Hau‘ula.

According to KPD’s preliminary report, around 4:20 p.m., a call was made to Dispatch indicating three distress swimmers, including two bystanders and Hughes.

Kaua‘i Fire Department personnel and lifeguards with the East Roving Unit were notified, along with Air-1 and Zodiac-1, as well as units from the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a KPD release.

Hughes was found unresponsive around 6 p.m. Multiple attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. KPD reported the two bystanders who jumped into the water to assist Hughes returned safely to the shore.

Hughes was taken to Black Pot Beach Park boat ramp by Zodiac-1 and subsequently transported to Wilcox Memorial Center where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy is scheduled to determine the exact cause of death.

One witness, Rachel Sipperley, said the beach was crowded Sunday, where she saw one bystander, a member of the Coast Guard, bring in another swimmer.

“If he hadn’t gone out, more people would have died,” she said.

Sipperley said she would advocate for more signage at Hanakapi‘ai noting the dangerous swells.

“It was really, really heavy,” Sipperley said. “It was such an eye-opening experience.”

Volunteers with Life’s Bridges, a grief counseling service, were contacted to offer support to the man’s family and friends.

4 Comments
  1. Palani April 6, 2021 6:26 am Reply

    Hanakapiai beach crowded? What a shame. It’s always been a dangerous beach, but the long and somewhat difficult hike to get there was enough of a deterrent to keep it secluded and sparsely occupied.
    When I was there in the 70’s, the chopper brought in another drowning…..


    1. sam April 8, 2021 7:00 pm Reply

      It wasn’t crowded. My wife and I were there. There were less than ten people on the beach proper. I was near the river by the trail. We talked with both survivors. One was hyper fit and almost saved the lost man. The third guy was young and just wanted to help. He was lucky to make it back to shore. The fit guy guided him back in. The waves were high and crossing in all directions. Classic rip current situation. It took recovery 90 minutes to even start since there was no cell phone service.


  2. David April 6, 2021 6:53 am Reply

    So sorry for him and his family. I had a similar experience at Queens pond, went in with an inexperienced ocean swimmer and he couldn’t get back through the current, I stayed with him assisting to the point of exhaustion and would have died if not for two surferrs who came to our rescue. Never got a chance to thank them as I went into shock later and forgot their names but eternally grateful for there courage in paddling out.


  3. Square April 6, 2021 11:17 pm Reply

    My condolences to the family. Whether it was the 70’s before or after clearly this area has always been a treacherous area to navigate with high potential threat to life. No matter what region of the world were in, respect and Vigilance, should always be a factor at first approach. Nonetheless my heart breaks, and my thoughts and prayers are with those in loss and grieving.


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