A Wahiawa family is mourning the loss of a young girl who died after apparently trying to save her little sister from drowning at Pokai Bay.
Family members told KHON2 the girls, Gloria Eram, 11, and Martina Eram, 9, were at a large family gathering when they decided to go into the water.
“They went out to the deep by the rocks and they both couldn’t swim, so they were trying to get (a bystander’s) attention onshore,” said Brenda Namelo. “They got his attention and the guy went out to save the younger sister, brought her in at around 12:05. Then she went into the ambulance and then they went back out to look for Gloria.”
Maierina Eram, the girls’ aunt, said the family only realized the girls were missing when a lifeguard announced Martina’s rescue on a public address system.
Maierina said her brother, the girls’ father, was told to stay in the ambulance with Martina.
“He was trying to ask them to leave Martina in the ambulance and he need to go to the sea to find the other one,” she recalled.
It took about a half hour to find Gloria, but by then, it was too late. Authorities pronounced her dead.
Maierina said Gloria loved school. “That was her favorite. Gloria’s really smart, a good girl,” she said.
She adds that Martina is doing well and recovering at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.
“She knows everything, what happened to them. That’s why we need her to help us to explain what happened to them in the sea yesterday,” Maierina said.
Maierina said she is heartbroken by the loss of her niece and wants other families to learn from their tragedy.
“If kids go to the sea, the parents should stay with them (and be) closer to the sea,” she said.
According to the State Department of Health, 238 people nearly drown in Hawaii each year on average — 54 percent of them are residents. In addition, 67 people drown each year in Hawaii with half of them being residents.
The American Red Cross Hawaii chapter is one agency that offers free swimming lessons for both keiki and adults. They’re held every Saturday in June at Ala Moana Beach Park.
The Red Cross says it is important to teach kids how to swim at an early age.
“Things can happen just at the drop of a hat and so as I said you should be within arms length of any child that’s in the water, because things can happen. They can slip and it just takes so short of a time for them to pass out or not be responsive,” said Hawaii Red Cross Executive Director Coralie Matayoshi.
The Red Cross says swimming pools are just as dangerous and parents should have a cell phone handy in case of an emergency.
For more information, visit the Hawaii Red Cross website.