HFD terminates search for missing body surfer off Sandy Beach

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Honolulu Fire Department on Monday terminated its search for a missing body surfer off Sandy Beach in East Oahu. Fire officials made the tough decision after scouring the waters for three straight days.

Lance Kaowili's family and friends say he would ride the waves at Sandy's often, if not daily. They're puzzled as to what could have happened to him.

HFD's rescue helicopter scanned the East Oahu coastline, as fire crews in dive gear searched underwater.

On shore, the missing body surfer's wife stepped away from her family for a bit to be alone with her thoughts.

"I've been with him 26 years and I just can't imagine life without him," Casey Saniatan, Kaowili's wife, said.

The father of four and grandfather of five was last seen at Sandy's -- his favorite surf spot -- last Thursday, wearing black board shorts and swim fins. His vehicle remained in the parking lot, but he disappeared.

"Kind of just feel really empty, kind of just lost," Keli-Grace Kaowili, missing man's daughter, said. "There's no words really to explain how it feels."

"Words just can not express how we feel," Saniatan said. "We thank everyone, every rescue here, everyone for their kindness, for their love."

While Sandy's can be brutal for the inexperienced, Kaowili's family, lifeguards and surf regulars say he's familiar with the strong currents and dangerous shorebreak.

"Very well-known, very well-respected," Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department, said. "We're not sure what happened."

The missing man is the brother of a Honolulu firefighter. Ocean Kaowili's boss, Fire Chief Kenneth Silva, stopped by to personally offer his support.

Fire officials say their crews use their training and expertise, and put out their very best effort no matter who the missing person is. However, there is an emotional element in this operation.

"We do the same for all of them, but, yeah, it does hurt," Seelig said.

Unless something new turns up, this will be the final day of HFD's search. But Kaowili's wife says she will never give up.

"We'll keep coming back down here and hoping something will happen and the ocean will be kind to us and release him," Saniatan said. "Give him back to us, so we can bring him home."

Copyright Hawaii News Now 2011. All rights reserved.