The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) has officially suspended its search for the missing OC1 paddler, 66-year-old Michael Kitagawachi of Hōnaunau, South Kona on Monday, June 7th.
The HIRSC - Hawaii Island has also suspended its search as of Tuesday afternoon (June 8th).
Published by: HIRSC - Hawaii Island (Hōlualoa and Hilo) Team
The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) has officially suspended their search for missing OC1 paddler, 66-year-old Michael Kitagawachi of Hōnaunau, South Kona. Kitagawachi was last seen on Saturday, June 5th, 2021 around 5:50 am.
On the evening of Monday, June 7th, HFD Officials had officially suspended its search after three days of searching by air, land, and sea had yielded negative findings. HFD's search had encompassed an area from the shoreline and waters of Miloli'i to as far north as Kainaliu Beach and stretched out as far as 4 miles offshore.
Officials say that United States Coast Guard (USCG) had also suspended their search at sunset on Monday evening as well. They say both agencies would resume their search following any new evidence or leads that are received and related to Kitagawachi's case.
HFD along with the Hawaii Police Department (HPD), Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), USCG, and U.S. Navy responded to a report of a missing paddler last seen in waters offshore of Hōnaunau Bay (Two-Step Beach) in South Kona on Saturday morning (June 5th).
The initial call came in at 10:36 am Saturday morning and HFD Crews from the Captain Cook and Kailua (Rescue Company 7) Fire Stations along with Chopper 1, Battalion 2, USCG C-130/MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter/William Hart Cutter from Honolulu, DLNR - DOCARE Officers, US Navy MH-60R Helicopter, and HPD Officers from the Kona Patrol responded to the scene at Hōnaunau Bay in South Kona.
Upon the arrival of emergency crews, a report came in from bystanders (or fishermen on a boat) reporting discovering an empty one-man canoe floating in waters approximately 1 mile offshore of Hōnaunau Bay. Bystanders had searched for over 1/2 mile in all directions and came up with negative findings. They then brought the canoe back to shore, where a family member later arrived at the Hōnaunau Boat Ramp and confirmed that the canoe belonged to a 66-year-old male paddler, who was last seen or heard from earlier on Saturday morning. They later located the paddler's vehicle near Two-Step Beach with his phone located inside the vehicle. Family members and bystanders awaited the arrival of emergency crews.
The reasons why rescue crews had shifted their search further south was due to data from tide buoys deployed by USCG on Saturday afternoon and evening, indicated the tide near Hōnaunau Bay was currently pushing towards the south and southwest, crews focused efforts south of Hōnaunau Bay.
Bystanders/volunteers in canoes and also on private jet skis and fishing boats continued with their search efforts in waters offshore Hōnaunau Bay and also along the South Kona Coast as well. Multiple individuals also continued to search the surrounding shoreline and other beaches and bays in South Kona on foot.
Five members from the HIRSC - Hawaii Island Team also joined the search on Sunday, June 6th and conducted searches by land and also by boat until sunset on Sunday evening, and resume their search yet again on Monday, June 7th, and again on Tuesday, June 8th.
HIRSC Team members conducting land search along the South Kona Coast (between Ho'okena Beach Park and Honomalino) had also deployed a drone with a camera to help scan shorelines, coastline caves, and cliff areas not accessible by foot, the drone was only deployed during times when emergency aircraft was not flying in the area or on breaks and operated by HIRSC Team with FAA Part 107 License.
HIRSC Team had officially suspended its own search as of 4:00 pm Tuesday afternoon and sadly, HIRSC Team search efforts on all three days also yielded negative findings as well. Should any new information or evidence be discovered, we will also resume our own search.
Michael Kitagawachi being described as being 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weighing 155 pounds, and was last seen wearing a white long sleeve rash guard and black board shorts. The male paddler was also described as a very seasoned paddler who frequents the waters of Hōnaunau Bay.
USCG Watchstanders also issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast notice to mariners to be on the lookout for the missing paddler. Waterway users in the area are asked to keep a sharp lookout for signs of distress and anyone with information is requested to contact the Coast Guard Sector Honolulu command center at 808-842-2600 or you may also contact HPD Non-Emergency Line at 808-935-3311 and reference incident # 21-045154.