Monday, June 20, 2005

A Coast Guard helicopter crew hoisted ocean survivor Patrick Hannon to safety yesterday at 8 a.m. off Lanai.

Man survives
night at sea

The Coast Guard finds a Maui visitor
lost in the ocean for 15 hours after
a Jet Ski accident

LAHAINA, Maui » Patrick Hannon throttled his Jet Ski to 35 mph to jump over a large wave.

But with little experience handling a powerful machine in rough waters, he lost control and was thrown after a hard landing.

As the 20-year-old checked himself for injuries, his prescription sunglasses sank, and his Jet Ski quickly drifted away from him, with the Maui shores fading in the distance Saturday, a couple of hours before sunset.

What began as an ocean thrill ride became a 15-hour overnight swim for survival in deep channel waters off Lahaina.

And his life jacket probably saved his life.

"I think there's a very good chance I wouldn't have survived 15 hours out there without it," said Hannon, who is visiting from Cambridge, Mass., and was rescued yesterday by the Coast Guard. "My father said better lucky than good. He definitely knows what he's talking about," said Hannon, who stood outside Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku after being treated for dehydration.

A Coast Guard crew in a C-130 airplane spotted Hannon about nine miles southwest of Maui, at the intersection of the Kalohi, Pailolo and Auau channels.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Lagarde of the C-130 plane said he looked out the window and saw Hannon sitting on his life jacket and waving his arms in the air.

"It was an incredible feeling," said Lagarde, an avaiation maintenance technician. He said Hannon's life jacket made it easier for them to spot him.

Petty Officer 1st Class Maximo Mida was lowered from an HH-65 helicopter, and he pulled Hannon out of the water.

"He was very coherent," Mida said. "He said he was feeling OK."

Hannon showed signs of hypothermia and had suffered a few jellyfish stings.

HANNON, his brother, Brian, and cousins James and Ian Carroll had just arrived in Maui when they decided to rent Jet Skis from a barge a few hundred yards off the Hyatt Regency Maui at Kaanapali at about 4:15 p.m.

Hannon said it was only his second time on a Jet Ski.

"I couldn't quite bring her down. ... To be honest, I probably should have been a little more cautious," he said about his wave jump. After being separated from his Jet Ski, he began swimming toward Kaanapali, but the ocean was "pretty choppy," with waves sometimes breaking over him.

Carroll said they reported Hannon missing when they returned to the barge and could not find him. His Jet Ski was found about five miles off Wahikuli Beach Park between Maui and Lanai at sunset Saturday.

Hannon said he was worried for the first hour or so because he did not know what to make of his situation. But then he saw helicopters with their search lights looking for him.

"I knew they'd make sure they'd be taking me home," he said. "If they were doing such a great job at night, they were definitely going to take care of things in the morning."

He tried swimming back to Kaanapali for five to six hours, sleeping in short intervals, but did not make any progress in the strong currents.

"I had to make sure to save my endurance," he said.

He did not see any sharks and kept his mind on activities he had been planning to do the next day, such as watching the National Basketball Association finals on television with his relatives.

"It was much nicer to think of the Pistons and Spurs than what might be lurking down there," he said. "You just hope you have what it takes to keep going."

Hannon said he was grateful that the Coast Guard found him in the morning, because he was worried about the impact of the hot midday sun.

He said he probably would not get on a Jet Ski now, but might in a year or two. And he will not be going snorkeling as planned today.

"I think I've had enough of the ocean for this trip," he said.

Star-Bulletin reporter Rose Bernardo contributed to this report.

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