SEARCH FOR MISSING SURFER
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
A Honolulu Fire Department rescue swimmer got out of a helicopter rescue basket yesterday holding a piece of surfboard recovered in the search for a missing surfer on the North Shore. A search command center was set up at the Sunset Beach fire station.
Board find at Ehukai confirmed
The 35-year-old's fiancee reported him missing on Thursday
The U.S. Coast Guard will resume searching for a missing surfer today, after his surfboard was found at Ehukai Beach on Thursday where there was high surf.
He is described as a passionate surfer and shaper living in Waialua
Police identified the missing man as 35-year-old Joaquin Velilla. Firefighters received the missing-person report at 11:10 p.m. Thursday.
His fiancee, Mariela Acosta, was searching for Velilla because he was not answering his phone, and she spotted his parked car at Ehukai Beach Park.
Acosta described him as a passionate surfer and surfboard shaper, serious about his work. "He's an incredible person," she said.
Acosta said they both moved to Hawaii five years ago and have made Hawaii their home. His Web site www.velillasurfboards.com lists his address in Waialua and displays surfing photos and designs he created.
Firefighters said yesterday that Velilla's surfboard had been found on Ehukai Beach by an anonymous person at 7 p.m. Thursday and turned over to rescue personnel at 4:30 p.m. yesterday.
The fire helicopter Air 1 searched from the shoreline to a few miles out into the ocean, starting from Kawela Bay near Turtle Bay to Kaena Point, said Sunset fire Capt. Socrates Bratakos.
Bratakos called off the fire crew's search at about 5:30 p.m. as daylight ran out and resources such as fuel and crew relief needed to be replenished. He said the search would resume today.
"We think we have the board -- we're not sure, but that changes our search effort a little bit," Bratakos said after calling off the search, adding that they could focus near the area where the 7-foot board was found. Firefighters later confirmed it was Velilla's board.
The Coast Guard was still searching with a C-130 airplane, HH-65 Dolphin helicopter and 87-foot patrol boat at 8:30 p.m. Their search had begun at 12:10 a.m. yesterday and continued out to five miles from shore.
"We are saturating the area with our assets in order to find this person," Petty Officer Michael De Nyse said.
Warren Hoohuli was working overnight security for the Rockstar Games Pipeline Pro World Championships when Velilla's fiancee drove up Thursday night after spotting Velilla's car parked at Ehukai Beach Park.
Contest director of the championships Bob Thomas estimated the surf Thursday before dusk was 20 to 25 feet high. "Facewise, it was huge," he said.
At 6 p.m. there were still about 60 surfers in the water, he said.
"There's a rip current that runs right down the shore and will take you three miles out to sea within a few minutes," he said. "Within 15 minutes you're out of eyesight."