Military flare originally thought to be explosive causes Hanauma Bay evacuation

A fun Saturday morning of snorkeling quickly turned into confusion and disappointment for visitors at Hanauma Bay were they forced to evacuate after a suspicious device was found in the water.

From about 11 a.m., the popular nature reserve shut down for several hours but eventually reopened at 1:45 p.m.

Lifeguards found the suspicious device during routine training near Witches’ Brew. The Honolulu Police Department bomb squad came to the scene and determined it was a tool used by the military.

A visiting Phoebe Taylor says a lifeguard told “‘everyone, can you please get out the water, because we see something suspicious, and we need to shut down the beach and everyone needs to leave.'”

“Then a lot of firemen came down,” said Ellenor Lundberg. “It was crazy, but the people in the bay were very calm.”

“At first, we weren’t sure if it was a shark or a suspicious package,” said Taylor. “We didn’t know what was going on.”

“I think we were kind of shocked,” Lundberg said, “like, should we go up, should we stay, or what is happening? … It’s our last day, so we’re kind of sorry, but we’re going snorkeling somewhere else.”

We obtained a photo of what lifeguards found. Geoff Chang of the HFD said on the outside of the canister, it read “if you find this device, turn it over to the military or police.”

We’re told it was initially thought to be an explosive, but it turns out the canister was a flare, likely dropped by a military plane or helicopter. “It just emits smoke and marks a spot on the ocean for them, and it floated into the bay,” Chang said.

The HPD bomb squad determined there was no threat and removed the canister from the beach.

“It definitely did them justice to close the beach,” said visitor Jackie Reynolds. “I mean, it’s better to keep people safe than be sorry about it later.”

The Honolulu Fire Dept. says if you ever come across any unusual or suspicious device, make sure not to touch it and immediately call 911.

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