Visitor vanished while diving off Kahala

Terry Seelig
Terry Seelig
Darwin Jensen
Darwin Jensen
Jessica Rich
Jessica Rich

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

WAIALAE-KAHALA (HawaiiNewsNow) – A New York man is still missing after he disappeared late Monday morning while diving with a guided group at the site of a sunken vessel a half-mile to a mile off Waialae-Kahala. The man, described by the Honolulu Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard as being in his early to mid 20's, arrived with his family Sunday for a week-long vacation in Hawaii.

The fire department and Coast Guard used several boats and three helicopters to scour the ocean near where the man was last seen.

"He apparently went diving with a commercial tour. They were out of the Hawaii Kai area, but went to a location in this vicinity where there is a sunken wreck," said Honolulu fire Captain Terry Seelig.

"They were doing a drift dive at the time which means that you drop in behind the boat and then you go down as a group as quick as you can and then follow with the current along the bottom of the ocean and then return to the surface again and board the boat," added Coast Guard Lt. Comdr. Darwin Jensen.

Jensen said a head count was done when the group got back to the boat. That is when the dive master from Island Divers, who led the excursion, noticed the man missing.

City lifeguards put a thrill craft in the water to assist with the search. Crews walked the coast hoping the man had made it back to shore by himself.

The fire department set up a command post at Waialae Beach Park. The man's parents arrived to witness rescue effort late in the afternoon. The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii had people on scene to comfort the family and assist with any requests.

"If your child is missing you are just experiencing the whole gamut of emotions and we're here to let them know how much we care," said VASH President Jessica Rich.

The man had gone out on a group excursion led by Hawaii Kai based company Island Divers. The boat the group had been on, the Sea Fox, pulled back into its slip just after 7:30 p.m. Monday. The Sea Fox and two other boats from Island Divers, spent the afternoon assisting in the search. The company also had divers in the water hoping for a miracle.

The ocean was rough with wave faces reaching ten feet and bigger.

"(It is) Not uncommon for people to dive in this kind of weather conditions, but it is certainly a little bit rougher than most people are comfortable with," Jensen said.

The fire department suspended its search at sundown. It will resume the effort at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Island Divers has canceled its Tuesday charters so it can assist in the search.

The Coast Guard continued to search from sea and air through the night.

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