2 dead after apparent drowning off Keauhou resort

  • The Hula Kai returns from a cruise at Keauhou Bay on Monday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Hula Kai crew members assist customers off the boat at Keauhou Bay Monday afternoon. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Two people are dead after apparently drowning Sunday afternoon near the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay.

Emergency responders from the Hawaii Fire Department arrived on scene at 4:11 p.m. after they received a report of two people floating face down in the water. Hawaii Police spokesman Alan Richmond said the call to HFD was initiated after witnesses heard a woman crying for help from “rough waters.”

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Three responders arrived on scene and approached the captain and crew of the Hula Kai vessel, which was docked in Keauhou Bay between excursions. In the interest of time, HFD personnel requested transport to the rescue site.

“Their boat was going to take a little bit of time for them to get out, so they were able to hop on with us and we were able to go,” said Alex Dant, vice president of operations for Fair Wind Cruises, which operates the Hula Kai.

He estimated utilizing the Hula Kai, which carries lifeguard equipment on board, saved emergency personnel around 15 minutes in response time. Responders located the victims after a roughly 2-minute search.

According to an HFD press release, a man, estimated to be aged somewhere in his 40s or 50s, was located 15 feet out from the coastline, while a woman, estimated to be in her 40s, was pulled out of the water roughly 40 feet from shore.

“Both were rescued from the water and taken to the boat where resuscitation efforts were initiated while patients were transported back to the pier,” fire officials said.

Once on shore, the victims were transported in critical condition by ambulance to Kona Community Hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival, Richmond confirmed.

Dant was not working Sunday and none of the crew members who assisted with the rescue were on duty Monday. However, Dant said based on information relayed to him by employees of the company who were party to the incident, the victims were located off the shoreline fronting the Sheraton pool area somewhere between Keauhou Bay and End Of The World — a popular cliff diving site to the south.

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He also confirmed reports of rough waters, saying on Monday that the last three days have seen the presence of a northwest swell that’s “been a bit rough.”

As of Monday afternoon, it was unclear if the deceased were visiting or permanent residents of Hawaii Island or elsewhere in the state. Authorities have not yet released the names of the victims.

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