Lifeguards stress safety after 2 visitors drown at Hanauma Bay

Two people from China died Wednesday while swimming in Hanauma Bay.

At 5:22 p.m., a male snorkeler was found unresponsive roughly 200 yards from shore. Lifeguards brought the 26-year-old man to shore and performed CPR. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Shortly after, a 26-year-old woman was found roughly 50 yards from shore. Lifeguards brought her in and performed CPR, but she was also pronounced dead at the scene.

Police say the two were together, but are still determining their exact relationship.

Both cases remain under investigation as unattended deaths. There were no signs of foul play.

Even though it appears peaceful and serene from above, Hanauma Bay is considered one of the most dangerous beaches in the state.

Thousands of people visit the bay every day, but despite warnings, officials say visitors assume snorkeling is a relatively safe activity.

That assumption can have deadly consequences.

Conditions in the bay were considered normal Wednesday, though lifeguards had already rescued several people prior to pulling the two victims from the water.

“The male was about 100-150 yards offshore in an area that we do have rescues commonly,” said Shayne Enright, Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services spokeswoman.

Since 2013, there have been 10 drownings at Hanauma Bay and thousands of rescues.

“I was quite shocked, because I guess I didn’t realize maybe there was that much of a danger here as opposed to the other beaches that we’ve been to,” said Carol Wulf, who was visiting from Missouri.

“There is a misconception that snorkeling is an easy recreational activity. It isn’t,” Enright said. “There are currents here, strong currents at Hanauma Bay that you can’t see from the shoreline that you can easily get into trouble.”

Visitors are required to watch a short video before getting into the water that also warns of the changing water conditions and offers safety tips. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced swimmer, lifeguards suggest staying in shallow water, wear a life jacket, and know your limits.

Can more be done to increase awareness?

“We are looking at in-room videos for hotels. That’s another concept we would love to get going,” Enright said. “There’s always room for improvement, but we can’t just have a knee-jerk reaction (such as) close the bay. We need to sit down, look it through, and look at it with our partners.”

Michele Nekota, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, issued the following statement:

“The Department of Parks and Recreation, our staff, volunteers, and Ocean Safety lifeguards are committed to maintaining public safety. Keeping everyone safe while enjoying our facilities is our top priority. We have several measures in place at Hanauma Bay to inform visitors to the Nature Preserve of the inherent dangers of entering the ocean. Our educational video highlights several safety practices while also focusing on marine conservation. Signs throughout the bay inform beachgoers of the conditions. In addition, our dedicated staff, lifeguards and volunteers work diligently to make sure everyone enjoys the bay safely and responsibly.”

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