Body of drowning victim recovered below Rainbow Falls

HILO — Hawaii Fire Department divers recovered a body at about 10 a.m. Saturday at the bottom of the splash pool in the Wailuku River below Rainbow Falls.

Divers were searching for a 20-year-old man who went missing early Friday evening while swimming with three others at the popular Hilo recreation spot. Battalion Chief Matthias Kusch said the body fit the description of the man, who, according to his companions, had become fatigued while swimming, disappeared underwater and never resurfaced.

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“No positive identification has been done by (police) to my knowledge,” Kusch said.

Kusch said it was his understanding the missing swimmer was a visitor.

A county helicopter as well as divers were a part of the search, which was suspended Friday night because of darkness and resumed at first light today.

“After two rounds of dives and grid searches, the body was discovered …,” Kusch said. He said the bottom of the splash pool is about 35 feet below the surface.

Kusch said the recent relatively dry weather in Hilo has resulted in low flow rates in the Wailuku River and “good swimming conditions.”

That’s far different than the flash flooding that occurred when the Wailuku — which means “waters of destruction” in Hawaiian — claimed its last victim on Jan. 26, Kelly Mrowinski, a 28-year-old traveling nurse from Chicago.

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Mrowinski had been hiking with a male companion above Piihonua Falls when both were swept into the river by rising flood waters. The man managed made his way to the riverbank and climbed out of the rain-swollen stream, but Mrowinski, who had worked less than a month at Hilo Medical Center, went missing until her body was recovered downstream on Feb. 25.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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