LIHUE — A vacation in Switzerland is always wonderful.
For Branch Lotspeich, it got even better when word reached him that rescue tubes helped saved lives again in Hawaii.
“It is so rare in one’s life that you can be involved in a community project that actually saves lives, and I am quite humbled by being a part of all of this,” wrote Lotspeich, executive director Rescue Tube Foundation, Inc. on Kauai.
The Kilauea man and wife Melody were visiting friends and family in Bern when he received an email, then a Google Alert message, telling him of the June 9 rescue at Pololu Valley in North Kohala on the Big Island.
An off-duty firefighter, using Rescue Tubes, helped save a family of five from North Carolina that had been pulled out by a rip current and was struggling in the waters. A Waimea resident had grabbed the Rescue Tubes stationed in the area and handed them to the firefighter, who went in the water.
“This was an especially important use of a Rescue Tube in my opinion because one person on the beach had the strength and concern to recognize the serious nature of the situation and ran to get the Rescue Tubes but someone else with apparently much more knowledge and experience in water safety decided to be the one to use the tubes and go into the water to perform the rescue,” Lotspeich wrote in an email to The Garden Island.
This was significant, he said, “because the basic premise of the Rescue Tubes has always been to not put a second person in danger.”
This was also the first time there were photographs taken of a Rescue Tube being used.
“I was very moved to actually see people so concerned with the well being of total strangers that they risked their own safety to aid them,” Lotspeich wrote.
The Rescue Tube project on Kauai is almost four years old and today, there are more than 230 Rescue Tubes on Kauai’s beaches.
Lotspeich said there have been about 65 uses in that time, “saving many lives.”
The current cost of the materials for a Rescue Tube station — mount and Rescue Tube with silk-screened graphic instructions — is about $90 per station.
Dr. Monty Downs, president of the Kauai Lifeguard Association, is leading the effort in supplying and maintaining the Rescue Tubes for Kauai. He is supported by most of the Rotary Clubs on Kauai as well as a Lions Club and several other organizations and individuals.
The Rescue Tube Foundation will continue to provide the equipment and help with coordinating the labor to manufacture and install the stations.
Lotspeich would like to see several hundred more Rescue Tubes around the islands.
“With time and financial support this should happen,” he wrote.
There are about 50 Rescue Tubes being installed across the state of Hawaii and discussions are underway for their installations on Oahu.
“Maui is next on our radar,” Lotspeich wrote. “There are even Rescue Tubes now on the beaches of Emerald Isle, N.C. in their city park beach system.”