Opihi picker dies after being swept out to sea

Guided only by flashlights from the cliffs above, Hawaii Fire Department rescue personnel Tuesday evening recovered the body of an opihi picker who had been swept into the ocean off Puna.

Responding to the 3:24 p.m. Tuesday alarm, firefighters arrived at a rocky coastline area fronting 15-825 Beach Road in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision to learn that a man in his 50s had been swept into the ocean while picking opihi, according to the Hawaii Fire Department. The victim was last seen floating face down in the surf zone.


Responding units conducted a shoreline and ocean search for the missing man. Conditions in the area were rough with 20 feet waves, according to the department, which noted divers worked the near-shore area just outside the surf zone. The U.S. Coast Guard assisted with a helicopter and C130 plane.

At around 6:45 p.m., rescue efforts were suspended with the intention of returning at first light Wednesday. However, at approximately 7 p.m., friend and family at the cliffs reported seeing a body in the water.

Fire department units returned to the scene.

“And in the darkness, 2 rescue men deployed to the surfline,” the department said in a press release. “Guided only by lights from the cliffs above they, through several attempts, were able to recover the victim.”

The victim’s body was transported via boat to Wailoa boat ramp where the Hawaii Police Department took over the investigation.

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