The search for a man in waters off East Oahu came to a sad end Tuesday morning.
Divers with the Honolulu Fire Department recovered the body of Tajhee Williams, 19, at around 7:07 a.m.
Fire officials say he was found approximately 50 feet from shore, submerged in about 20 feet of water.
According to the Honolulu medical examiner, Williams was from Port Jervis, New York. His cause of death is pending.
Fire officials say Williams was swept off the rocks near Halona Blowhole and Sandy Beach Monday evening.
The victim’s friend called for help at around 6:30 p.m. and the department responded with six fire companies, a water craft and Air One.
They searched until it got too dark with no sign of the man.
The U.S. Coast Guard continued searching through the night and firefighters resumed their search at first light Tuesday.
Surf is high in the area due to a long-period southerly swell.
Battalion Chief Albert Mahoe with the Honolulu Fire Department stressed the importance of heeding warning signs.
“The signs are there for a purpose and unfortunately, this is one of the proving points of the tragedy that can happen,” he said.
“Fewer spots on the island are more dangerous than the blowhole,” said Ocean Safety Lieutenant James Sloane.
Williams is the third person to die at Halona Blowhole in two months. Back in July, two soldiers died in the same spot.
There are signs posted at the top of the lookout warning about the danger and urging people to stay away, but many still choose to ignore them.
Ocean Safety says people are also finding other ways to reach the blowhole.
There are two different ways: by crossing a wet rocks trail from Sandy Beach — which, officials say, is what Williams did — and from the beach on the other side of the blowhole, called “Eternity Beach” or “Cockroach Cave.”
There are no danger signs posted at each access point.
Shawn Hubert explained how he stumbled across the access to Eternity Beach: “I went down the other way, where there seems to be a pathway. I watched other people go down there.”
“Did you notice signs saying ‘Danger, do not go beyond this point?'” KHON2 asked.
“We weren’t sure, to be honest, if that meant that beach down there,” Hubert said. “When we looked down there, there’s 20 or 30 people down there suntanning and having a good time. The sign just says don’t go beyond this ledge. So yeah, it’s a little confusing.”
Ocean Safety says it’s done 420 rescues in this area so far this year. There have been six deaths in the last 12 months in the area from Sandy Beach and Halona Blowhole to Hanauma Bay.
“To me, it’s all about educating the public. If they’re educated of the dangers, It’s their decision if they will heed the warnings or not,” said Sloane.
A spokesman for the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation says the department added two more “danger” signs five months ago at the top of the lookout.
The department will look into adding additional signs at both access points to the blowhole but, he notes, officials do not want to litter the beaches with signs.