JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Neal Kido, right, and his brother Niles, middle, left the Navatek 1 in high spirits Tuesday after they were rescued from the ocean off Diamond Head. Their mother, Gina, is at left.
Dinner cruise saves and serenades lost-at-sea pair
After swimming for their lives for four hours off Diamond Head on Tuesday, two Honolulu brothers found themselves "Sharin' the Night" with local singer Fiji and the tourists aboard the Navatek 1 cruise vessel.
"First we're in the middle of the ocean, then I'm getting Fiji's autograph," 20-year-old Neal Kido said yesterday. "I've always been a big fan of his."
Kido and his 14-year-old brother, Niles, swam for four hours toward shore after their 14-foot Boston Whaler sank. A "freak wave" filled the fishing boat despite calm conditions that day, Neal said.
Hours later, a tugboat hauling several barges spotted the boys but, unable to stop, notified the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter but also sent an urgent marine broadcast to all vessels in the area. The Atlantis Adventure's Navatek 1 responded to the message as the boat was returning from its dinner cruise.
"I told my brother that they probably thought we were whales," Neal Kido joked. "Then I noticed the boat was headed straight for us, and thought it was going to run us over."
Crew members pulled the pair aboard the stern of the vessel while Fiji encouraged them on with a song.
"It was fairly easy to find the boys since they were waving their life jackets very enthusiastically," Navatek Capt. Cale Wofford said. "We were pretty sure they were OK."
After checking the pair for hypothermia, the crew gave them towels and food.
Neal Kido, a tutor at Kawananakoa Intermediate, was familiar with Navatek 1's route as a longtime fisherman and diver. He made sure to remain in the area until the next vessel passed.
Although the fear of encountering sharks bothered him, Neal was more concerned about comforting his brother. Halfway through their swim to shore, Niles held onto his brother's foot as Neal pulled him the rest of the way.
Neal also did not want to worry his mother, Gina, whom the pair called immediately upon being rescued.
"He told me that they were both OK but didn't go into detail about what happened," Gina Kido said. "I found out from overhearing the paramedics."