Man picking opihi reportedly drowns in Ka’u

KAILUA-KONA — Authorities recovered the body of a Naalehu man swept into the ocean while picking opihi in Ka’u Wednesday afternoon. Drowning is the suspected cause of death.

The initial 911 call came in at 12:52 p.m. According to a press release from Hawaii Police Department, Duane A. Breithaupt was picking opihi with about 10 family members. The 54-year-old was alone picking from the cliff area at Kahakahakea Point.

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The release states that family members reported about 12:44 p.m., a large wave swept Breithaupt into the ocean, where he struggled before disappearing.

Hawaii Fire Department’s Chopper One and Two were dispatched to the scene. Battalion Chief Ian Smith said Chopper One was first on scene where its crew located Breithaupt within minutes.

The victim’s body was found around 2 p.m., 4 to 5 miles offshore.

Breithaupt was taken to the Ka’u Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:42 p.m.

The area where the suspected drowning occurred is accessed by four-wheel drive and traveling on foot to the location. The area is about two- to three-hour travel off the main portion of the roadway.

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Police are continuing the investigation which is being classified as a public accident.

Two aircraft and one boat with the U.S. The Coast Guard also responded to the scene. They were called off once the victim’s body was located.