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Paddler pulls person from water


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POSTED: Friday, January 30, 2009

HILO » Kona kayak paddler Mark Crawford thought he saw a coconut bobbing in the water two miles offshore from Kahaluu, North Kona, last week.

Then he heard the coconut cough.

Crawford paddled about 25 yards and found a man curled into a ball, turning blue, apparently suffering from hypothermia.

Now, more than a week after saving the man on the afternoon of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Crawford still doesn't know his name, can't be sure how the man got so far from shore and has no word on how he fared after the rescue.

Crawford, 55, said he regularly paddles his kayak a mile or more offshore. An outrigger provides stability and Kona waters are usually calm.

He said the cough he heard was probably from the man swallowing water. When he arrived beside the victim, he saw a snorkel and swim fins floating next to him. Why the man wasn't wearing them, Crawford doesn't know.

The only words he heard the victim say were "dive" and "diving."

The man was "an older Asian guy," Crawford said. He was fading in and out of consciousness, but he managed to grab onto an ama, or crossbar, of the outrigger while Crawford slowly paddled toward shore. Getting the victim onto the one-man kayak would have been out of the question.

The progress was slow. "It wasn't going well," he said.

After 20 minutes, Crawford saw an approaching boat, which he later learned belongs to Big Island Divers.

Crawford waved his paddle, yelled and got the boat to come over and pick up the victim.

The dive boat made a 911 call to shore, then carried the victim to help. The boat crew reportedly saw an inflatable kayak that had lost its air, but there was no certainty that belonged to the victim.

The man was taken to Kona Community Hospital, but the hospital says it cannot reveal what happened to him because of federal privacy law. The same is true for county fire rescue personnel who responded. Police could not immediately find a record of the case and might not have been involved.

"I'd like to find out who this guy is," Crawford said.