Lifeguards work to keep swimmers safe at notoriously dangerous surf spot

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After the death of a bodysurfer at Sandy Beach, we’re asking what can be done to make it safer.

Josiah Ramos, 19, died Sunday afternoon. A police report says he was bodysurfing and friends lost sight of him.

He was found unresponsive underwater and brought to shore, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Sandy Beach is notoriously dangerous because of its surf break.

Ocean safety officials tell us the conditions Sunday were normal. They say it shows just how dangerous Sandy Beach is.

“We’re constantly brainstorming to figure out what is the best way for us to most effectively get a message to the visitors and the residents about the dangers of Sandy Beach and Makapuu,” said Capt. James Sloane of the city’s Ocean Safety Division. “We tell them that we have big, strong, powerful waves that come from the open ocean and break right on the sand, and so we get a number of back and neck injuries throughout the year.”

Sloane says lifeguards even approach people in the parking lots just as they’re getting out of their car. Lifeguards are also warning people through the PA system if they look like they’re about to get in trouble.

According to Emergency Medical Services, crews have been called to Sandy Beach 69 times in the past three years.

Just this year, six people were taken away in critical condition and two people drowned.

Last year, seven patients were hospitalized in critical condition with no drownings.

In 2014, seven patients were hospitalized in critical condition and three people drowned.

We spoke with bodysurfers who were there when the drowning happened. They say there was nothing unusual about the conditions.

In fact, they say the waves Sunday were smaller than they were Monday.

“It doesn’t matter if the surf is big or small. It doesn’t matter what the tide is doing. It doesn’t matter what the wind is doing. Sandy Beach is dangerous 365 days out of the year,” Sloane said.

Devin Otagaki is all too familiar with the dangers. She’s a physical therapist at Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, where many patients have been treated for neck and back injuries from Sandy’s.

Among them is her best friend, who’s now paralyzed.

“He was a great water person,” she said. “You would never think that he’d be in danger or put himself in danger, and it was a small break that day, so you’d never think that that an injury would occur.”

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