3 survive capsizing off of Kauai, make night swim to safety

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — A man with a broken leg, a 10-year-old boy and a boat owner were able to swim to safety after a wave capsized their 19-foot vessel off the west coast of Kauai.

Boat owner Zack Romanak of Port Allen said he wanted to stay close to the capsized boat Sunday night until dawn, but the pain experienced by his guest made them decide to swim, The Garden Island reported.

Romanak, his son Noah, and Brad Warren, a California man they met Sunday, fished near Niihau and about 8 p.m., headed toward Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor when the large wave struck the boat’s stern.

The boat twisted sideways. All three were thrown in the water, and Warren was hit the hardest. The impact broke his prosthetic hip and his femur in three places. He felt the worst pain of his life, he said.

“And I’ve had kidney stones,” Warren said Monday at Wilcox Memorial Hospital as he awaited surgery, hoarse from screaming. “I’ve had three separate kidney stones, and this is absolutely worse than a kidney stone.”

He joked that his screams likely could have been heard in Tahiti.

The Romanaks were not injured. Zack Romanak, in the dark, retrieved two life vests and put them on Warren and his son. They swam to the boat and climbed onto the portion above water.

Waves continued to crash onto the boat. Warren kept getting tossed into the water.

“It got to a point to where I couldn’t even climb up anymore,” he said.

After four hours of excruciating pain, he was exhausted and thought his life might end.

But then Noah told the men to listen and they heard the song “Don’t Stop Believin'” from a party at a boathouse on shore.

They decided to swim. Warren held onto Noah, Noah held onto his father and the three began swimming. Thoughts of a shark attack, or large waves and currents that could carry them from shore, crossed their minds.

Romanak estimated it would take them at least two hours to reach land.

“We went for it, and within a half an hour, we were on the shore,” Romanak said.

Romanak ran for help, borrowed a cellphone and called 9-1-1. Kauai firefighters met the three shortly after midnight at Kekaha Harbor.

Romanak said he should have known better than to try to make it into the harbor in high surf conditions.

Warren called him a hero. “He saved my life,” he said.

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