Musician Ernie Cruz Jr. dies, pulled from waters off Sandy Beach

Ernie Cruz Jr. (Photo: Kuaʻaina Ulu ʻAuamo/KUA)
Ernie Cruz Jr. (Photo: Kuaʻaina Ulu ʻAuamo/KUA)

Musician Ernie Cruz Jr., perhaps best known as half of the popular duo Kaʻau Crater Boys, has died.

The Honolulu medical examiner confirms the 56-year-old died after he was pulled from waters off Sandy Beach Tuesday afternoon.

It happened at around 2:30 p.m.

According to Emergency Medical Services, Cruz was found unresponsive roughly 100 yards from the shoreline. Lifeguards brought him to the beach and performed CPR.

Cruz was hospitalized in critical condition and later died.

Upon hearing of his passing, Cruz’s coworkers at Hawaii Stevedores gathered together to pay tribute. They brought in machinery, held a prayer and sounded horns in his honor Tuesday night.

The news was also a blow to many in the Hawaiian music community.

“Just so many memories and things just flood my mind about him, loved the ocean, loved to surf, loved his music, was a relaxing, kick-back bruddah, you know, and I’m going to miss him a lot,” said Kelly Boy De Lima of Kapena.

Aside from being a talented musician, Cruz was a waterman who brought his love of the ocean into his songs.

After his stint with the Kaʻau Crater Boys, Cruz went on to have a successful solo career, winning Na Hoku Hanohano awards for Best Male Vocalist and Island Contemporary Album of the Year.

Beyond his music, Cruz lent his voice to the Kuaʻaina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA), an innovative, community-based initiative dedicated to protecting, restoring and caring for the islands.

“Ernie was my favorite musician and he was on our board because he would simply say, ‘I love Hawaii,'” said KUA executive director Kevin Chang. “His voice, his talking and singing and laughing is something that is very important to me and all the people that he touched.”

Chang says Cruz supported KUA’s mission perfectly with both his music and voice.

Hawaii Stevedores video courtesy Momi and Ward Mariani.

From our archives: Ernie Cruz Jr. (left) and John Cruz performing on KHON2
From our archives: Ernie Cruz Jr. (left) and John Cruz performing on KHON2

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