Drowning resurrects call for lifeguards
WAILUKU » A second Maui visitor has died this year in waters off Makena State Beach, renewing complaints about government delays in posting lifeguards on the shoreline.
The funds were authorized by the state Legislature in mid-2007.
"The more I think about it, the more it makes no sense," said Maui beachgoer George Harker.
Harker said he cannot understand why there has been a delay in posting lifeguards who could warn visitors not to go into the water on dangerous days.
Harker said the latest victim was snorkeling with a friend when the waves were breaking 4 to 5 feet on the shore.
The body of Gene Ward, 53, of Los Angeles was found offshore between Little Beach and Big Beach yesterday afternoon, Harker said.
Harker said he began lobbying for lifeguard service four years ago, and there have been at least four deaths in waters off the state beach.
Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Shaffer said a call was made at 12:45 p.m. notifying authorities about a missing man who was last seen snorkeling about 100 yards off Makena.
Shaffer said a fire search helicopter found the body about 40 yards offshore shortly after 1:17 p.m. Lifeguards on personal watercraft retrieved the body.
Once on the beach, crews attempted to revive the man but were unsuccessful, Shaffer said.
Harker said he believes that if lifeguards had been at the beach, they would have posted red flags to warn swimmers about the dangerous conditions.
He said although there are warning signs, the signs tend to be vague, warning of undertows and urging common sense.
Daniel L. Rawlins, 59, of Austin, Texas, died on Feb. 24 after he and three other men were swept 100 yards offshore by a rip current at Little Beach.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources was unavailable for comment.
County Parks Director Tamara Horcajo said county attorneys were reviewing an agreement to take care of the lifeguard services for the state. She said the lifeguard service is needed, and she expects lifeguards to be posted at the park by August or September.