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Saturday, July 30, 2005
Fisherman finds out
But Rivera, a 30-year veteran spearfisher, was not ready to give up. He offered to pull his 6-foot-1, 225-pound friend aboard, then braced the dinghy as Loumoli managed to hoist himself onto it. Rivera then swam the quarter-mile back to shore, dragging his buddy and their load of fish.
"The boat was moving faster than I was," Rivera said. "That's what I don't understand. I kept on paddling."
Andrew Rossiter, director of the Waikiki Aquarium, said needlefish cruise near the surface of the water, seeking small fish as prey, and do not normally hit humans.
"They've got very good eyes," he said. "They see things in the distance and dart at them at great speed. They use that as a tackle mechanism for their food, which I emphasize is not usually people."
The crocodile needlefish is the biggest needlefish, growing up to 5 feet long. It has been called the "living javelin" for its attack style. The fish uses the same sudden acceleration as an escape mechanism, and that is probably how Loumoli got hurt, Rossiter said.
"The needlefish had been startled and gone into its escape response, and the swimmer was unlucky enough to be in its escape path," Rossiter said. "It's a million-to-one chance."
The two divers had spotted sharks in the area but were not fazed by them.
When he got to shore, the 44-year-old Rivera ran to a nearby house, wet and out of breath, yelling, "Please, I need help, call 911." But the folks watching TV inside merely looked up at him and turned back to their show, he said.
So Rivera headed for the road, and when he saw headlights, he prayed, "Let it be a cop."
It was. Loumoli's mother and father, who turned 50 that day, got the call from the hospital close to midnight. His mother, Paea, said she could never sleep when her son was night diving.
"It's a hobby that really scared me to death," she said. "I had to stay up at night to see his car come in, to make sure he's still in one piece."
During his meeting with the news media yesterday, he fingered a white rugby ball and brought along a stack of Bibles as gifts. He also showed off the blue tooth, saying a friend had offered to make it into a necklace for him.
While recovering in intensive care, before he could even talk, Loumoli scribbled a note to his mother: "I'm going to quit diving." But yesterday he was not ruling it out, and might venture back.
"It's going to be very, very scary," he said. "You're going to be looking around. You going to keep having that eerie feeling."
For now it is a hurdle just to cough. He tenses up whenever he gets a tickle in his throat, bracing for the pain.
"I'm used to moving around a lot," he said, shifting his weight in his wheelchair. "Sometimes I move wrong. It feels like my guts are coming out."