EWA BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - "I did a lot of praying out there." That is what Ewa Beach resident Scott Folsom, a diver with more than 30 years experience, said after spending more than 13 hours alone drifting in the open ocean off Kaena Point. Folsom was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard early Monday morning about two miles from land.
Folsom's ordeal began Sunday morning when he and friends took a boat from Waianae to a spot about two miles off shore to collect fish. He told Hawaii News Now he went into the water alone at about 11:30 a.m.
"What the plan was?" he said while recalling how his misadventure began, "to go diving and collect some fish and we had set up an anchor line at the bottom."
Folsom was planning to use the anchor line during his assent to guide him back to the boat on the surface. But when his dive was done, he could not find the line.
"The anchor line wasn't that far away. I almost had it in sight. And there was a couple geographic features I could follow back to where the anchor was. And I was poking around on the side, and when it was time for me to be done, I worked my way back and the anchor wasn't there. I think it had drug a little ways. So I knew my buddy was expecting me so I did a couple search grids to try to find the anchor line. I didn't find it. I didn't want to spend any more time on the bottom so I launched my surface marker buoy so I could hang from it and decompress while this ten foot buoy was up on the surface to mark my position. So it was basically my fault. I didn't make it back to the anchor buoy for whatever reason. I was prepared but things happen sometimes," he said.
Folsom spent part of Monday rinsing his gear in the driveway of the Ewa Beach home where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He showed us the equipment he had with him in case of emergency. He wore a dry suit. He carried a ten foot tall inflatable surface marker buoy, two compasses, flashlight, motorized scooter, reflection mirror, extra mask, extra snorkel, extra oxygen, and transmitter equip with a two way radio. His transmitter, however, did not work and he was not able to call for help. And even though the marker buoy extended ten feel into the air from the surface of the ocean, no one saw it in the rough seas.
The Coast Guard said Folsom was expected to surface at 3 p.m. When he didn't his friends called for help. Folsom said he could see rescue helicopters searching for him, but no one on board saw him until well after dark.
"Mostly what I thought about when I was out there other than making sure I got back to shore was my wife and kids. I knew I was fine. I wasn't hurt. I didn't get the bends or cut or scraped or damaged in any way, but I was thinking that my wife and kids didn't know that and they were probably really freaking out," Folsom said.
"The Coast Guard was fantastic. I saw them running search patterns earlier on and I just happened to be carried in a little different direction," he added.
Folsom said the currents moved him miles in one direction, then back again. At times he got so close to land he was sure he would be able to swim ashore only to have the currents reverse and pull him back out to sea.
"I almost got to shore at Mokuleia," he said. "I could see individual people. I could see cars and tents. You know, it was just ... I could taste it. So it was kind of heartbreaking to realize, no - not again. I couldn't get a break that night because I went back around the point and I couldn't get in anywhere. Any direction I went the current just kept pushing me back away. I just conserved my energy, didn't want to panic. There was no way you could beat the current."
"The current pushed me back out. Back up past Kaena Point. Back on the Makaha side. And at that point it was dark. I couldn't swim into the point or into the beach or down the beach so I just figured the Coast Guard wasn't going to be there until morning so I just did the best I could to conserve my energy, stay in that area so I could be found, and just laid on my back and watched the stars and used them as my course direction and thought of my family."
Finally, sometime around 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. Folsom was able to get the attention of a rescue swimmer on a Coast Guard helicopter by flashing a light at the helicopter.
"We had our 65 dolphin aircraft was returning to base to re-fuel at which point our rescue swimmer on board the vessel spotted the man in the water," said Coast Guard Lt. Leigh Cotterell
The chopper dropped the rescue swimmer in the water and within 15 minutes a small inflatable boat from a nearby Coast Guard rescue vessel pulled them both out of the water.
"I know that it was a miracle that they found him and I was very grateful to the Coast Guard that they didn't give up," Folsom's wife Alicia told Hawaii News Now.
"I was really fortunate. They did a great job," Folsom said.
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