Monday, February 22, 1999

11 rescued
off Big Island

By Lori Tighe


After spending a night clinging to wreckage in waters off the Big Island, 11 people were rescued by the Navy and Coast Guard yesterday.

Five entertainers who had gathered at Spencer Beach had canoed into Kawaihae Bay early Saturday evening. Their friends on shore saw them swept out to 15-foot seas, as winds suddenly gusted from 40 to 50 mph, said Navy Cmdr. Alan Moore of the USS Frederick.

Another group of people set sail on a 28-foot catamaran to rescue them, and they, too, got swept out, Moore said.

A few more people paddled out on a canoe to help, but also were swept out to sea. The boats capsized, forcing the entire group to spend the night in the ocean, hugging the wreckage.

Called by the Coast Guard to help find the group, the Navy sent the USS Frederick, a tank-landing ship ported in Pearl Harbor.

The crew spotted the group floating in the water around 7:23 a.m. yesterday. Those rescued told the Navy that one man had headed for shore around 11 p.m. A Coast Guard helicopter spotted him treading water a half-mile off the Kona coast. He was taken to Kona Hospital and treated for mild hypothermia.

"We gave them food, water, showers, dry clothes," Moore said. "There was a 9-year-old boy included, and he looked like he was going into shock."

By the time they left the USS Frederick, everyone seemed in good shape, Moore said.

"They even gave us a juggling performance to thank us."

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