THE KAUAI DAM TRAGEDY
Maxed-out Coast Guard seeks Navy aid in search
Stretched by the Kauai flood disaster and other missions, Coast Guard capabilities are nearly maxed out and the service is asking the Navy to help, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said yesterday.
The Coast Guard had a full plate even before the disaster. Its aircraft have been performing interisland air ambulance services since the crash on Maui last week of a plane operated by Hawaii Air Ambulance, and until Tuesday night had been searching for a swimmer off Portlock.
"We're covering many missions with as many assets as we can deploy but if we have one more mission, we might have to let something else go. That's a really big 'if'," said Chief Petty Officer Marsha Delaney.
The Coast Guard has been scouring the seas off Kilauea since Tuesday, when a dam collapse let loose a torrent of floodwaters that left seven people missing.
Coast Guard crews found an unidentified male later that day about a mile offshore. The body of a female was found in a streambed yesterday afternoon.
The Coast Guard will continue searching, Delaney said, but has had to call up additional crews to relieve those performing the air and sea searches.
It also has asked the Navy to provide an aircraft to assist with the air searches. There was no immediate reply from the Navy yesterday, she said.
A Coast Guard statement said it has been searching nonstop off Kauai with a C-130 Hercules aircraft and a helicopter from its Barbers Point station, along with the Honolulu-based cutter Washington and a smaller rescue boat based at Nawiliwili on Kauai.
Coast Guard crews also have assisted with land searches.
The small boat was pulled off yesterday because it "completed its search area," Delaney said.
"There are a lot of things we have to consider as we divide assets -- crews need rest, equipment has to be maintained," she said. "If we throw in everything at once, we've got nobody for the long-term, and we are in this for the long-term," she said.
Coast Guard planes have transported 29 people from the neighbor islands in to Honolulu in medical evacuations over the past four days after a plea for help from Hawaii Air Ambulance, Delaney said.
The cutter Washington also only became available after the search for a missing swimmer off Hanauma Bay was called off on Tuesday, she said.