High school paddlers rescued after canoe takes on water off East Oahu

Paddlers from Kalani High School were rescued Monday after their double-hull canoe started taking on water.

Ocean safety personnel responded to the distress call at around 11:12 a.m. near Spitting Caves off East Oahu.

Eleven students were returning to Maunalua Bay from Sandy Beach when they got caught in a strong current and their canoe swamped, so they jumped in the water and called for help.

Freshman Kanani Oyakawa was one of them.

“It was just really rough and rocky out there,” she said. “We were all getting seasick out there, and I think that’s kind of why we were like, we were swamping, because there wasn’t that many people of us that were paddling, because we were all sick.

“We just jumped off because if we were in the boat, we would have sunk,” she added. “We knew that we couldn’t do anything about it, but we were just trying to wave for help and ask people to help us out.”

The students were paddling with a single-hull canoe, which held five paddlers and their coach.

“For me, when I lost sight of the double-hull and we had to turn around and look for them, I started praying that nothing serious (had happened),” said coach Marcus Edayan. “The varsity boys told me they told themselves they got to keep it together, don’t panic, so that way nobody else panics, and everything worked out. … Today really showed that as a team, we pulled it together.”

Fire officials say conditions were relatively flat, but there was a strong current in the water.

“Ocean safety got out there first and secured the boat, made sure everybody was all right. The boat kept drifting, so by the time we got everyone off and secured the boat, the boat was actually all the way down by Sandy Beach,” said Geoffrey Chang, battalion chief, Honolulu Fire Department. “The coach kept everyone’s cool head. All the kids knew what to do, they stayed with the boat. It would have been nice if they had an escort boat with  them, but for the conditions they were in, they did everything right. They all made it back safely. No injuries.”

HFD and ocean safety personnel on rescue watercraft along with a private boat brought 11 paddlers back to the Maunalua Bay boat ramp, where family members were waiting.

Edayan and the other students paddled back in the single-hull canoe, while firefighters towed the double-hull canoe back to shore.

Greg Van Cantfort, the school’s athletics director, says all student paddlers have to pass a water safety training course to be on the team.

He will meet with the coach and students Tuesday to make sure all safety protocols were followed, and to see if any changes need to be made.


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