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Puna Information Update for August 5th, 2020

The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) releases further details on the opihi picker that drowned in waters offshore of the Maku'u Coastline Tuesday afternoon (August 4th).

Published by: HIRSC - Colorado (Grand Junction) Team

The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) along with the Hawaii Police Department (HPD) and United States Coast Guard responded to an initial report of a swimmer in distress in waters offshore of the Maku'u Coastline in Puna Tuesday afternoon (August 4th).

The initial call came in at 3:23 pm Tuesday afternoon and HFD crews from the Paradise Park and Waiakea (Rescue Company 2) Fire Stations along with Battalion 1, Chopper 1, HPD officers from the Puna Patrol, USCG C-130 and Dolphin Helicopter responded to the scene located along the rocky Maku'u Coastline on Government Beach Road in Puna.

Upon the arrival of emergency crews, reports came in from nearby residents along the coastline reported a male swimmer (described to be in his 50's) was reported to be in distress in the rough waters offshore and was yelling for help. Residents and bystanders later spotted the male floating face down in the water and lost sight of him and awaited the arrival of emergency crews.

Once emergency crews arrived at the scene, first arriving HFD crews learned from family members and friends, the male was picking opihi along the rocky coastline and was swept into the water by a large wave. HFD crews immediately began a ground search of the surrounding area while Chopper 1 commenced with an aerial search of the surrounding waters and HFD Rescue personnel aboard Rescue Boat 2 were completing a surface and underwater search of the area where the male was last seen.

Later Tuesday afternoon, USCG C-130 and Dolphin Helicopter from Barbers Point station on Oahu arrived in the area and began to search in waters further offshore of the Puna Coastline and mapping the current.

At 6:45 pm Tuesday evening, HFD crews had suspended their initial search for the missing opihi picker and would return at first light Wednesday morning (August 5th), while USCG continued their search into the late evening hours.

Just after 7:00 pm Tuesday evening, HFD crews received reports from family and friends of the missing opihi picker reported sighting his body just shore of Maku'u Coastline and immediately responded back to the scene. Once back at the scene in the dark conditions, 2 Fire-Rescue Specialists entered the water and guided only by lights from the cliffs, were able to success retrieve the victim's body, and brought it aboard Rescue Boat 2.

Once recovered, HFD crews returned the Wailoa Boat Ramp in Hilo, where the victim was then transported to the Hilo Medical Center and the official pronouncement of death was made.

HPD continues to investigate the incident and the identity of the victim was not immediately released, pending positive identification by next of kin.

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