Statewide problem puts beachgoers in danger

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It’s a scene that’s all too familiar to law enforcement — trucks driving on island beaches.

“You have people laying on the beach just trying to enjoy it and when you have people either racing or just driving reckless up and down the beach, it makes for a dangerous situation,” Kauai Police Department Sgt. Jason Overmyer said.

On Saturday afternoon, 38-year-old Norman Akana, Jr. was arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence, refusal to submit to testing and reckless driving, after driving his pickup truck into the ocean near Lydgate Park.

“This is a very popular area. We have our visitors there, we have a lot of families so you have young kids,” Sgt. Overmyer said.

The incident happened at a spot known as “Kitchens.” Akana was alone and had already gotten out of his Ford F-150 by the time police and firefighters responded to the scene.

Three tow companies were needed to pull the truck from the surf.

“The vehicle was completely submerged. If he had gotten trapped in his seat belt or if the windows had been up, it could have ended very differently for him,” Sgt. Overmyer said.

It’s not the first incident at “Kitchens.” In January 2009, 38-year-old Jackie Bigno of Puhi was sunbathing when the driver of a truck with oversized tires ran over her. She was airlifted to Oahu and later recovered.

“Unfortunately, it takes incidents like the 2009 or what happened over the weekend to bring it back to the forefront and get people to think about and remember the beaches are for the public and for everyone to enjoy, not to be racing up and down and creating a dangerous environment,” Sgt. Overmyer said.

Unless transporting people or supplies for picnicking, fishing, camping or swimming, it is against Kauai County law to drive a vehicle on the beach. Violators face a possible fine determined by a judge.

Driving a vehicle on the beach is also against state law. Violators could face a penalty of up to $500.

Akana remains in police custody unable to post $4,000 bail.


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