Kayaker's body found under reef in Kailua Bay
The California visitor was not wearing a life jacket, officials say
Honolulu Fire Department search crews recovered the body of a California postal worker from underneath a Kailua Bay reef yesterday, a day after he disappeared during a kayaking trip.
Johnny Yu, a 49-year-old Air Force reservist, was found at 11:45 a.m. by HFD diver Greg Steuber, who glimpsed what appeared to be human hair through a hole in the reef in waters off the Mokulua Islands. Yu capsized in a rented kayak at about 2 p.m. on Monday about 150 yards from where he was found.
According to fire officials, Yu was on a guided kayaking tour with a coworker, when white water hit their kayak and they capsized.
While Yu's coworker swam over to the tour guide's kayak and made it to shore safely, Yu disappeared.
"He was passing by on his Jet Ski and saw what looked like hair through a puka (hole) in the reef," said HFD spokesman Emmit Kane. "He got out to check it and the full body came into view."
"He gained access through a hole the size of a basketball rim and found the body about 15 to 20 feet underwater."
Fire officials said Yu and his co-worker were not wearing life jackets.
State law does not require commercial kayaking companies to have their customers wear a life jacket, but some often do as a safety precaution.
"When they paddle away from shore, they're wearing life jackets, or they don't leave," said Bob Twogood, of Twogood Kayaks Hawaii. "Though state law does not require them to wear life jackets, they have to be easily accessible. And if you have insurance, then usually they require you to have your customers wear life jackets."
Yu, a husband and father of three from Atwater, Calif., was in Hawaii to attend three weeks of Air Force Reserve training. On Monday, he and his coworker, a 26-year-old woman, were part of a guided tour off the waters off Kailua and Lanikai, led by an employee of Hawaiian Watersports.
Company officials declined to comment yesterday, but other Kailua kayaking operations said they should not have led their customers over an area with a shallow reef.
"There is more of a danger because of waves breaking over the reef," said Egmar Klemmer, owner and operator of Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks Inc. "We have maps that show the proper route. If an employee of mine leads a group to the reef, he doesn't come back."
Klemmer said he requires his customers to watch a 12-minute safety video and wear life jackets before heading out on his kayaks.