Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News
2 killed, 2 missing
in surf off Maui

Two visitors are saved after tourist groups
are swept into the ocean

By Rod Ohira and Gary T. Kubota

KEANAE, Maui -- The tranquility of this picturesque peninsula on the road to Hana was shattered yesterday by unforgiving waves that swept six visitors into the sea, killing at least two of them.

Two people were rescued, but two others are missing and presumed dead.

"Lucky all of 'em never die," said J.J. Hueu, 33, who helped his friend, Harry Pahukoa III, rescue a 48-year-old woman from Sandy, Utah. "This would have never happened. They never listen."

Keanae's worst tragedy since the April 1, 1946, tsunami involved two groups of tourists - three couples from Duluth, Ga., and four couples from Utah.

It started when Mitesh Bhakta, 32, of the Georgia group was knocked down by a wave while taking pictures near the seaside village's boat ramp.

His companions were able to bring him to shore, where 50-year-old Donald Arends, a paramedic from the Utah group, began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"The waves was real mean and I told them to bring the guy farther up," said J.D. Pahukoa, Harry's brother.

"But the guy didn't listen and kept doing CPR.

"Seconds after that, a big wave came and took all of us out," added Pahukoa, who says the wave was about 7 or 8 feet.

About 10 people were swept out by the wave at about 2:30 p.m., Hana police Lt. Jody Singsank said.

The local men, J.D. Pahukoa, Kimo Martin and Sam Holi, were in the water trying to assist the visitors.

"Me and my cousin was in the garage when the tour driver called us for help," Harry Pahukoa III said. "Everybody was in the water."

Hueu added, "Bodies was floating all over. Three of them were floating face down and the lady was trying to stay above water."

Harry Pahukoa paddled out on a surfboard and picked up one of the Sandy, Utah, visitors, 54-year-old Billy Crump, who was about 50 yards offshore. At the same time, he helped put a life vest on Arends, and instructed him to stay where he was.

"He didn't listen and tried to follow me in," Pahukoa said.

Fighting through strong currents, Pahukoa brought Crump in on the surfboard but as they reached the lava-rock shoreline, a wave washed Crump back out.

Pahukoa started out again to bring him back. Going out, he saw Arends near the shoreline.

"He got slammed in the rocks (by a wave)," Pahukoa said.

"The current was unreal. If he never panic (and stayed out), he would have been OK."

Pahukoa and others later brought in Arends' wife, Cathy, 48.

The bodies of Bhakta and Donald Arends were recovered later.

The missing men, both from the Georgia group, are Bhupendra Bhakta, 30, of Duluth, Ga., and Meghal Shah, 33, of Lawrenceville, Ga.

Cathy Arends was treated at Hana Medical Center and released, while Crump was transferred to Maui Memorial Hospital, Singsank said. Crump was listed in guarded condition this morning.

"I talked to some of the residents and this is the first time they remember anything like this happening," Singsank said.

Seberio Menor, Maui Civil Defense administrator, said a high-surf advisory had been in effect for north shore areas since Wednesday. "It can get very rough there," Menor said of Keanae Peninsula.

A National Weather Service forecaster, Jonathan Hoag, said surf along the north and west shores began rising yesterday morning on Oahu and Kauai and likely moved on to Maui by the afternoon.

Today's forecast said surf could be in the 6- to 10-foot range.

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