A man was killed Thursday morning in an accident involving a boat at Waianae Small Boat Harbor.
It happened at around 7:21 a.m. just outside the rock wall at the mouth of the harbor.
Witnesses say a man was swimming just outside the harbor when a 21-foot fishing boat that was entering the harbor ran over him.
Emergency Medical Services says the man was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Army identified him as Col. Kirk Slaughter, 49, Deputy Commanding Officer, Operations of the 9th Mission Support Command, Fort Shafter Flats.
Officials say Slaughter, who is originally from Lyons, Neb., had been assigned to the 9th MSC for the last year, and had served in the Army Reserve for over 30 years with combined enlisted and commissioned time. His awards include a bronze star medal, four meritorious service medals and two Army achievement medals.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Col. Kirk Slaughter, as they navigate through this difficult time. He was an exceptional officer and friend and he will be deeply missed,” officials with the 9th Mission Support Command said in a statement.
Slaughter was on leave and camping at nearby Pililaau Army Recreation Center at the time of the accident.
Witnesses tell us that they heard a call for help as soon as it happened.
A boat captain who was just heading out saw the crew trying to bring the injured man on board so they could bring him to shore, while his daughter was still frantically screaming for help.
“She was in a state of panic,” said witness Mike Talabay. “She was like, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I was like just get him to shore. We’ve got emergency services waiting. They’re already at the pier and try to get him to safety.”
Witnesses tell us the man had gone out on a surfboard, but also had fins and snorkel gear with him, and must have swam away from his board.
We’re told that swimmers and divers are required to have some kind of marker with them, like a flag or a buoy to alert the boaters that there are people in the water.
“I guarantee there was no dive flag, because most paddle boarders, they don’t bring dive flags with them, because they don’t have any intentions of diving, but the fact that he had his fins means obviously he wanted to dive,” said witness Holly Stakes.
Boaters and tour operators tell us they’re seeing more people, mostly tourists, swim out to see the dolphins. They say most of them do not know the rules, because there are no signs and the rules are not being enforced.
We asked the Department of Land and Natural Resources if there’s any thought of putting up signs to explain exactly what the rules for swimmers and divers, and how often the rules are enforced. We’re still waiting for a response.
“Is the law being enforced at all?” KHON2 asked boat captain Pete Whitney.
“I don’t think so, because every day I see people going out with no flags at all. I see it every single day,” Whitney said.
Boaters say the state needs to establish some type of boundaries for swimmers and divers to help prevent any more of these tragedies.
“Lots of times we do see people that don’t have dive flags, and that’s what makes it really dangerous,” said Sam Sniffin. “When you drift away, if you don’t have a dive flag, you’re not out there with your board, and with the many boats that come in and out of the harbor, it makes it extremely dangerous.”
The Honolulu Police Department is investigating the incident as an unattended death.
According to a spokeswoman, “This appears to be a boating accident with no indications of foul play. Once completed, the HPD report will be turned over to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.”