Boaters staying away from Kaneohe Bay helicopter wreckage

Reyn Aubrey
Reyn Aubrey
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Marcella Granquist
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Marcella Granquist

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

KANEOHE BAY (HawaiiNewsNow) - Five days after a Marine helicopter crashed on the sandbar in Kaneohe Bay, killing one marine and injuring three others, the wreckage remains, keeping some boaters from going out at all.

While there were far fewer boaters than usual, those who did show up Sunday respected the safety zone that has been set up around the helicopter.

Dennis Aubrey took his boat into the bay for the first time in weeks. He was mindful of the crash.

"We're curious about it, of course we heard the news," Aubrey said. "And we'll go by it and take a look at it from a distance, but it really won't affect where we go."

"I like the sandbar, and we haven't gotten to go out in a while" said Aubrey's son, Reyn, 12. "So I've been looking forward to it, and I hope it's not totally closed off."

Despite the safety perimeter, a large area of the sandbar was still open for boaters. But the safety zone itself was marked by buoys and flags, and patrolled by the Coast Guard and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Boaters arriving at the Heeia Kea Harbor parking lot were also informed by the Coast Guard about the zone.

"The reaction has been very positive, in that they understand the circumstances surrounding this incident," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Marcella Granquist, who was passing out safety zone notices and maps to boaters as they arrived. "They've been very accommodating, and we greatly appreciate it."

Having part of the bay closed off didn't bother Aubrey.

"We'll go up to that end of the sandbar or over to Coconut Island, or just cruise around, but we'll respect them and give them the room," he said.

"The sun's out, we're going to make the best of it," said Kenny Flores, another regular boater out with his family. "We can go further down, just gotta stay 500 yards away."

There can be dozens of people and recreational boats out on the sandbar on a nice weekend, but their numbers were much smaller on Sunday, which was sunny and calm. The ones who did go out realized that even with an outward atmosphere of fun, there was still something somber about being in the bay with the wreckage.

"We're here to have fun," said boater Cindy Flores, "but then as we approached the scene and saw it (the wreckage), we actually took a silent moment. It's just -- this is really sad, so sad what happened."

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