LIHU‘E — A multi-agency response Sunday afternoon led to the successful recovery of a family who got into trouble off Hanakapi‘ai Beach on Na Pali Coast, a county press release states.
A 43-year-old father and his two sons, ages 10 and 12, were rescued from a cave west of Hanakapi‘ai Beach on Sunday after a long operation, the release states.
The father had the presence of mind to push one of his sons into a sea cave after the two boys got swept out to sea in strong currents off Hanakapi‘ai Beach, the release states.
The family, visiting from Bend, Ore., hiked in to Hanakapi‘ai Beach and were getting ready to eat lunch when the incident occurred, according to a preliminary report.
The father was cutting up some fruit for his sons when one of the boys went to the edge of the ocean water and got swept out by the extremely strong current. The other boy went in to help, but he got swept out as well, the release states.
The father then grabbed a rescue tube that was in the area and jumped in the water. After finding one of his sons, the father placed him on the rescue tube and the current swept them around a bend towards a cave.
The father then pushed his son into the cave and told him to climb as high as he could.
Next, the father went in search of his other son. He found that son clinging to rocks.
He put that son on the rescue tube and they made it to the cave where the other son was waiting. Together they waited for help to come, while clinging onto rocks in the cave, the release states.
A state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officer contacted Kaua‘i police dispatch around 3:10 p.m., triggering responses from Kaua‘i Fire Department’s Hanalei and Princeville Jet Ski 1, Zodiac 1, Truck 1 and Engine 1, along with Rescue 3 from the Lihu‘e station and Air-1 (Inter-Island Helicopters, out of Port Allen Airport).
Jet Ski 1 lifeguards with the KFD Ocean Safety Bureau were the first to arrive on scene, verifying three people in the cave, the release states.
Zodiac 1 arrived shortly afterward and determined the waves were too big for any vessel to safely approach the cave.
Instead, two of the firefighters in the Zodiac, Gavin Kennelly and Dane Smith, who are trainers in rescue-craft operations, decided to swim to the cave to save the family.
The boys were taken from the cave one at a time and brought to the Zodiac. Each rescue took approximately 45 minutes. After both boys were in the Zodiac, they were brought to Tunnels Beach.
The father was taken to Hanakapi‘ai Beach, where Air-1 with KFD rescue specialists on board picked him up using a Billy Pugh net, and brought him to Ke‘e Beach in Ha‘ena State Park.
The rescued family members were checked by American Medical Response professionals at their respective locations, and released at the scene.
They sustained only a few scratches, according to the release.
North Shore waves Sunday were forecast to be between 5 and 8 feet.
Since 1970, there have been over 30 drowning deaths at Hanakapi‘ai, according to various sources including Patrick Durkin’s Kaua‘i Beach Hazard Survey and the Web site teok.com (The Edge Of Kaua‘i Investigations), which indicates people getting swept westward from Hanakapi‘ai Beach normally find no safe exit point for three to six miles.