Two dead after being swept away in waters near Chinaman's Hat

John Vines
John Vines
Joseph Ries
Joseph Ries
The woman & one of the men were taken to Castle Medical Center.
The woman & one of the men were taken to Castle Medical Center.

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

KUALOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two men are dead after they apparently were swept away in a rising tide Friday near Mokoli'i Island, more commonly known as Chinaman's Hat. A woman in the group was in serious condition at Castle Medical Center, while a fourth person was unhurt.

The four were soldiers who were apparently on what was supposed to be a fun weekend outing, walking to the popular landmark off Kualoa Beach Park in Windward Oahu. Police got the call at 1:20 p.m.

"They're walking in the water when the tide was low, and apparently on their return when the tide was high, they got caught in higher waters and struggled," said Honolulu Police Lt. John Vines.

The tragedy happened at the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend. A few campers were already set up in the park, including Joseph Ries of Waipahu.

"This lady ran to my campsite and asked for assistance, and I said, 'What's the problem?' And she said there's two people unconscious on the beach," Ries said.

Ries went to a spot on the beach where a man and a woman had been taken by kayakers who responded to their calls for help.

"Me and my friend ran over here and we saw one lady. She looked alright, but she looked like she was in distress," Ries said. "And there was another gentleman, and he didn't look too good."

The 27 year-old man was taken to the Castle Medical Center, where he died. The woman, 29, was last reported in serious condition at Castle.

A 26 year-old man in the group was unhurt and made it to shore. But he told rescue crews that one more person -- another 26 year-old man -- was still missing.

Coast Guard and Honolulu Fire Department helicopters searched the area before the man was spotted by Ocean Safety lifeguards on personal watercraft, who brought him to shore. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army Pacific said all four were soldiers stationed in Hawaii, but did not release their names, saying that family still needed to be notified. Lt. Vines of HPD said they apparently were from Schofield Barracks.

Lt. Vines also noted that the waters near Mokoli'i can be dangerous.

"The waters are moving when the tide comes in, and I've swam at this beach before," Vines said. "It does move rather rapidly, so if you're not sure what you're doing, it is easy to get washed."

"It's deceiving because you can go out there and walk out there, and then a couple hours later, you come back and its like -- it's over your head," said Ries. "If you don't know how to swim, you're stuck."

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