Firefighter, waterman drowns working fish farm - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Firefighter, waterman drowns working fish farm

Jeff Barbieto Jeff Barbieto

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Jeff Barbieto participated in hundreds of rescues and helped save plenty of lives in his career. He was an expert in ocean safety which is why it's so hard for his loved ones to believe he's gone.

Barbieto died Tuesday afternoon he wasn't on-duty as a firefighter but was working his other job with Hukilau Foods, a company that raises moi two miles off the coast of Pearl Harbor. 

"Jeff is one of my closest friends, we are very close," said Ryan Murashige, Hukilau Foods President and CEO. "He's the guy I would want by my side, through anything, work, going out or just talking story."

Barbieto worked for Hukilau Foods the past four years. On Tuesday he was maintaining the cages about 120 feet deep with three other divers.

"The crew that we had on Tuesday afternoon was our four seasoned divers so when that type of crew goes out into the ocean I just don't worry about it," said Murashige.

The medical examiner says Barbieto drowned but he did not have an air embolism more commonly known as the bends.  He was bit on the hand by an eel but its unknown if that played any factor.

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating but it will be at least two months before they release their findings.

"It's just a real eye opener for all of us that someone with Jeff's caliber could have an accident like this," said Murashige.

Not only did Barbieto save lives he founded a company teaching water safety.  He's also received awards for his heroic actions which make his loss even tougher to fathom.

"All of our thoughts and prayers go out to Jeff, his wife, his children, his family," said Murashige.

Barbieto is survived by his wife and three children, one of whom is graduating high school this weekend.

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