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Body surfer injured at Magic Sands

Updated: 
November 9, 2017 - 1:39pm

KAILUA-KONA — A body surfer was injured in the water at Laaloa Beach Park, also known as Magic Sands, on Alii Drive early Wednesday afternoon attempting to ride the beach’s infamous shorebreak.

Fire Battalion Chief John Whitman said the body surfer was a male tourist. He couldn’t provide details on the specific nature of the injury, but the initial call indicated there may have been an injury to the body surfer’s spinal column.

However, bystanders at the scene said after the lifeguards provided aid to the body surfer, he walked himself up to a picnic table where he rested, hunched forward, with an ice pack on his neck.

Lifeguards in the tower at Magic Sands, one male and one female, declined comment Wednesday, saying they were not allowed to discuss rescue activities.

Nakana Pierce, an onlooker who saw the event play out, said the body surfer initially refused a stretcher after lifeguards offered it.

Jay Bates, who was at the beach with Pierce, said it appeared as though the injured man was later convinced to get on a stretcher and take an ambulance ride to the hospital.

“I’ve never seen someone get on a stretcher standing vertically up,” Bates said.

Michelle Smith and Margaret Billy, two nurses visiting Hawaii Island from New York, said they spoke to the man’s wife, who told them he’d injured his neck.

Smith said she tried to communicate with lifeguards and inquired as to what their protocol was with neck injuries. She said she told lifeguards that even though the man could walk, his neck should have been destabilized and he should have been made to lie flat on his back.

“He didn’t look all the way there,” Smith said.

She added that an ambulance was eventually called, but not for 20 or 30 minutes after the incident took place. Who called the ambulance is unclear.

Billy said Hawaii Island’s beaches depend on tourists and lifeguards should do a better job making visitors feel comfortable.

“We decided not to continue swimming here,” she said.

Whitman said despite the noise around the incident, it was essentially “routine” and “an everyday thing.”

Magic Sands is one of Kona’s most popular beaches.

As to the body surfer’s initial refusal of medical treatment and the lifeguards’ handling of it, Whitman said simply, “You can’t make somebody (accept medical treatment).”

A few minutes after the ambulance departed, a lifeguard announced to beach goers over the loudspeakers to beware of exposed rock in the water.

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