Kawamoto pool victim an apparent suicide

Although the investigation into a body found Tuesday morning at Charles “Sparky” Kawamoto Swim Stadium in Hilo is officially a coroner’s inquest, it appears the man committed suicide.

“They found the guy at the bottom of pool with a bag of rocks on his back,” said a source who requested anonymity.


“That’s what was reported to us,” said police Capt. Rio Amon-Wilkins of the Hilo Criminal Investigation Division.

The man likely was in his mid-20s, according to police. The body showed no preliminary signs of visible trauma, and both police and Mayor Mitch Roth said foul play is not suspected.

Amon-Wilkins said the man’s death “appears consistent with” suicide, then added, “We’re going to wait until the autopsy is complete and get a ruling from the forensic pathologist.”

The autopsy will be performed later this week. Police are withholding the identity of the victim pending positive identification and notification of next-of-kin. Amon-Wilkins said police believe they know the victim’s identity.

When first responders arrived on scene shortly after 8:30 a.m., they determined that county lifeguards had discovered the body and extricated it from the water. It is believed the man entered the facility sometime while the pool was closed.

“The reality is, it was a difficult situation,” said county Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina. “Our lifeguards are there to save lives, and they’re not used to dealing with situations like this, so I applaud their professionalism in dealing with the situation. And we’re going to do our due diligence to ensure that they’re going to get the assistance they need moving forward from this event.”

Asked if that includes counseling, if needed, Messina replied, “Yes.”

“We’d like to mahalo our county lifeguards for their swift action in ensuring the prompt recovery of the body while maintaining the professional demeanor to ease pool-goer concerns through the recovery and initial investigation process,” Roth said in a press release. “Any loss of life is unfortunate, and we send our condolences to the friends and family of the individual.”

“We’re confident in our officers’ ability to conduct a thorough investigation and will patiently await their findings,” the mayor said.

The gates to the pool were closed Tuesday morning, and lifeguards were turning away would-be swimmers, mostly seniors, as police and evidence technicians were inside investigating the incident.

“It’s been a godsend having this pool here. It’s just a shame that it’s been having all the incidents that it’s had in the last year or so,” said Peter Erikson, a 77-year-old Hilo resident. “There’s been a lot of vandalism, especially at night, with people jumping the fences. As you can see, it’s pretty easy to get in there. They party in there all the time, with broken glass keeping it from being used. It was closed last Thursday because people had broke glass in the pool — and also defecated in the pool, which has happened before, too.

“It’s a shame that it’s not managed better. I’d just like to see it straightened out and have a place for us to go and swim.”

Messina acknowledged that Kawamoto pool has “a constant theft and vandalism problem.”

“Through the last fiscal year budget, we were able to add a security officer that patrols the entire Hoolulu Complex, including Kawamoto pool,” he said. “And we’re currently working on our next fiscal year budget — and we are including a request for a camera system at each of our pool facilities to help police when situations like this arise.

“There are low fences and low walls at Kawamoto, and we have been dealing with a lot of vandalism and homeless in the area.”

Messina said tentative plans are to reopen the pool today.

Individuals with any information relating to the incident are asked to call the police nonemergency line at (808) 935-3311. Those who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at (808) 961-8300.

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

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