Second boat propeller accident this year prompts discussion for mandatory guards

Photo courtesy Nakoa Prejean

A Big Island woman still in the hospital Monday night after getting badly injured in the water.

She was taking part in a paddling competition over the weekend when she was struck by the propeller of an escort boat.

It’s an accident some say could have been avoided had a proposal to change the law been passed earlier this year.

The accident happened on Saturday during the Pailolo Challenge Outrigger Canoe Race from Maui to Molokai.

Friends identify the woman as Faith Kalei-Imaizumi.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

In October 2010, Luke Evslin nearly lost his life when he was hit by a boat’s propeller during the Molokai Hoe canoe race.

Just months ago, in January, 59-year-old Sri Shim was killed when he was hit by a boat propeller while diving off Lanikai.

KHON2 found out a group of ocean users are trying once again to change the law to prevent future propeller accidents.

For Luke Evslin, news of what happened Saturday hit hard. That’s because the same thing happened to him six years ago.

“It’s always wrenching because it’s so preventable this shouldn’t be happening,” said Evslin.

Since the accident that left him scared, and fortunate to be alive, he says three more people have died in Hawaii as a result of propeller strikes.

“Mine would’ve been preventable. I would’ve had a big bruise on my back at the colorguard. So I look at all of them and know that it could be mitigated with proper safety equipment,” said Evslin.

Now an association of Hawaii clubs is putting together a resolution requesting the state land department investigate the use of propeller guards, to reduce critical and fatal injuries.

“Yes I believe, absolutely. There are mechanisms out there that could help to alleviate these issues,” said Nakoa Prejean, owner of Hawaiian Ocean Adventures. He’s also captained escort boats in countless outrigger canoe races. His boats have propeller guards.

“They encompass the propeller so that the propeller would not be able to strike a person or marine life,” said Prejean.

Prejean says the guards range in cost from about $150 to $400 depending of the motor, and can be attached within an hour.

“There is a lot of ocean safety education that goes along with this, I do believe propeller guards will absolutely alleviate issues happening. But I think it’s a greater responsibility for operators of the vessels,” added Prejean.

For his part, Evslin who’s made a complete recovery, understands why some boaters don’t want to be mandated to put on the prop guards.

But there’s one group of boaters he says absolutely should be required to have them.

“Just making sure that anybody who is escorting a canoe race or doing commercial tours, anybody anybody’s having people jump in and out of their boats. In a canoe race you have to be people jumping in and out of about 15 minutes for five hours straight and accidents are inevitable,” said Evslin.

Luke says his heart goes out to the Kalei-Imaizumi ohana.

As mentioned, earlier this year lawmakers did try to pass a law making it mandatory that boats have propeller guards. There was lots of testimony against it. Some boat owners say it’s too expensive or it would affect the performance of their boat.

The measure failed, but Representative Chris Lee who introduced the measure the first time says he would consider re-introducing the idea to the legislature.


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