?The Coast Guard continues to investigate the circumstances that led to a tourist's death at Molokini off Maui on Sunday. The victim has been identified as 50-year-old Mark Strickert of Austin, Texas.
Police say he was one of 15 people aboard the 'Double Scoop' a tour boat operated by Scuba Shack.
Owner/Captain Charley Neal says six divers and six snorkelers were in the water for 30 minutes when, "a freak storm rolled in and hit like a wall, 40-60MPH winds, rain, and 8-12 foot breaking waves."
Neal says everyone scrambled to get out of the water. But a father, who was swimming with his son, was spotted face down.
The Coast Guard recovered his body and is now investigating what went wrong.
"We investigate to determine if there was any act of misconduct or incompetence, negligence or unskillfulness or willful violations of law by a person that contributed to this casualty," said Lt. Cmdr Bill Taylor, Senior Investigating Officer of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu.
We have also learned that there were almost two casualties.
Neal says a crew member named Alana wrapped a rope around her waist and dove in attempting rescue. But the rope got sucked into the boat's engine and squeezed her so tightly she suffered internal injuries, and remains hospitalized.
"It was by far and away the worst day of my life," Neal says. "It was far worse for others involved."
The captain says he's been getting hate mail and threats. He says he posted the story online because he owes an explanation and wants everyone to know he did the best he could.
Read Charley Neal's Facebook post:
So… Everyone wants to know what happened yesterday.
I owe an explanation
I have been boating since I was 7. I have owned boats since I was 16.
Yesterday was pretty much like any other day, a dissipating storm had supposedly passed, I checked the radar and it looked like it had passed to the north and had been downgraded. The weather report called for trades, 10-15 mph.
When we got to the harbor at 5 am it was dead calm, cloudy, and a little misty.
When we dropped the boat in the water at 615, there was a light wind, 5-10 mph, light chop, a foot and under.
We went to Molokini, dropped in the divers, and 6 snorkelers hopped in the water and floated about, all had wetsuits on, which I insist on for safety under the guise of comfort.
After about 30 minutes what I would call a “freak storm” rolled in and hit like a wall, 40-60 MPH winds, rain, and the ensuing 8-12 foot breaking waves, I recalled the snorkelers that were pretty much all together, three gals came right in, three did not. The father and young son swam to the island, the boy climbed right up on it. The divers surfaced after I recalled them and we went to get the three. The third gal was trying to get on the island, my crew Jeff went in, swam in and got her out of the water, we went to find the dad, and unfortunately found him face down, unresponsive near shore. He was wearing a full wetsuit.
Immediately our brave Alana grabbed a rope, tied it around her waist and dove in. Unfortunately the rope got caught in the jet and sucked her under the boat, the rope constricted her horribly before (thank god) it snapped, but the severe squeeze caused internal injuries. I had some very brave customers and friends that got her back in the boat, but she was incapacitated. Thank you Bob, Nancy and Kayla Kilpatrick for steeping forward and being true heros. They have been friends and customers for 17 years.
The Coast Guard’ 45' boat arrived along with the fire department on a huge jet ski.
The coast guard recovered the victim as the jet ski was assisting the others off of the rock and transporting them to the Coast Guard boat, all this in the insanely raging seas, near shore with on shore winds. At one point, the jet ski even rolled over on one of the huge crashing waves, with a rescue passenger on the sled. It was horrible.
I have owned Scuba Shack for 17 years, taken out over 68,000 passengers, and this is my first serious incident, ever.
I would never put anyone’s safety in jeopardy, ever. It was a normal day and a freak storm. We still dont know what caused the victim to expire, but hopefully we will soon. He had a “medical” issue but also had a doctor’s clearance to dive. And again, he was just snorkeling with full floatation.
Alana is at the Maui Memorial Hospital if you’d like to send a note or flowers, she is expected to make a full recovery and we hope to have her back with us at Scuba Shack very soon. We are flying her sister out today.
Our sympathy and prayers go out to the family, the father was onboard with his with his wife, daughter and son. it was a terribly sad occurrence, and I feel we did everything we possibly could.
There have been several hate mails, threats, phone calls, emails and posts on FB coming to us about greed and stupidity, none of which is right, appropriate or appreciated.
It was by far and away the worst day of my life. But it was far worse for others involved.
Today we had the exact same weather report, 5-10 MPH winds with flash flood warnings till 6pm.
It was sunny, hot, calm and glassy as far as you could see.
Hawaii News Now
420 Waiakamilo Road, Suite 205
Honolulu, HI 96817
Main (808) 847-3246
News (808) 847-1112