Beach-goers assist struggling snorkeler at Larsen’s Beach

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    A rescue tube provides additional support for the lifeguard tower at Po‘ipu Beach Park.

LIHU‘E — Two bystanders helped rescue a snorkeler in distress off Larsen’s Beach (Lepeuli) on Saturday, according to an official and a man involved.

David Skrobecki, 62, of Kapahi, was at Larsen’s Beach with his pet Pomeranian when another individual reported a man was struggling “way out” in the water.

“He was bobbing up and down in the channel, a good 300 yards beyond the edge of the reef,” Skrobecki, who contacted The Garden Island, said.

According to Skrobecki, an unidentified “super-courageous young woman” then obtained a floatation device and plunged into the surf. He followed.

“I thought, ‘I need to have her back,’” Skrobecki said.

Upon reaching the man, the woman and Skrobecki unsuccessfully attempted to pull him back toward the reef amidst eight-foot waves. Exhausted, the woman decided to return to dry land after nearly 10 minutes of treading water, according to Skrobecki.

“She said she had to get in, but she heroically gave him her floatation device,” he said. “Without that, he would have died.”

Skrobecki claimed he remained with the snorkeler for approximately one hour and 10 minutes, during which time he gradually “cradled” him over the reef and to safety. A firefighter with the Hanalei fire station met them 50 yards from shore and completed the rescue operation.

First responders on scene Saturday included Kaua‘i Fire Department personnel from the Princeville and Kaiakea stations, Lihu‘e rescue specialists, the rescue helicopter, KFD Ocean Safety Bureau lifeguards on Jet Skis, the KFD battalion chief and personnel with American Medical Response, according to a county press release, which reported a total of three snorkelers in distress. All three declined medical treatment following the incident.

Princeville fire station Capt. Dane Smith confirmed two unidentified bystanders assisted in the rescue of a male snorkeler.

“I never actually dealt with them. They remained down on the beach after the response, and we walked the swimmers that needed assistance up the trail,” he told The Garden Island.

The floatation device used by the woman was one of over 220 rescue tubes installed by the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association at beaches without lifeguards for just such a scenario.

“It’s a really successful program on the island started by Dr. Monty Downs, one of the ER doctors here,” Smith said. “Pretty much every beach on the island has them. So, the bystanders did use that when providing assistance. I don’t know to what degree they actually helped in the water, because that kind of happened before we got there.”

Skrobecki said the tube’s purpose was “completely, totally and absolutely fulfilled” on Larsen’s Beach.

“I didn’t know this dude, she didn’t know this dude, but we both went out for him,” he said.

Skrobecki said he contacted The Garden Island to identify the woman who entered the water prior to first responders’ arrival.

“She was the hero,” he said.


Scott Yunker, general assignment reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or

  1. Jim July 9, 2021 4:16 am Reply

    Wow, they came with a helicopter, jet skis, lifeguards, and multiple fire departments, but the bystander was the only one in the water helping this snorkeler for over an hour? What the heck is wrong with this picture???

    1. David Skrobecki July 10, 2021 8:42 am Reply

      Hi Jim,
      Are you familiar with Larsen’s? For you or for others that are not familiar, it is a remote beach that requires a half mile hike down and there is zero phone reception. The mans two companions were close to getting out of the water just as the young woman and myself entered the water to swim out. So the 911 call occurred about a half hour into the rescue. Then the time it takes not just to get there but then the hike down with rescue equipment. I believe KFD is the best of the very best in ocean rescue. I am a rookie who had the WILL, adrenaline, and a little luck. They got there quickly Jim! Much more right than wrong with this picture.

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