WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Two Oahu men are suing the state for severe injuries they claim are tied to the Waikiki Beach Nourishment Project that wrapped up in 2012. Their attorney said that the sand replenishment created unnaturally shallow water.
Esmond Chung, 67, suffers from painful spasms, but he still considers himself lucky. He was initially paralyzed from the neck down while coming in from the surf spot known as Canoes in December 2012.
"I found myself falling off the board and before I knew it I went straight down, hit my head on the bottom, bounced back and I was floating face down... not able to move," said Chung.
The Kaneohe resident thought he was going to die, but two strangers rescued him about 200 feet offshore. Chung said he has surfed in that area for decades and the water used to be deeper before sand from the replenishment project washed out.
"This would not have happened if the state had warned the local residents. Beware returning visitors. Beware local residents. The reefs are going to change. They're shallow," said Gary Galiher, the plaintiffs' attorney.
The other plaintiff, Marc Tablit, is a quadriplegic. The 26-year-old was a passenger on the Manu Kai booze cruise in 2013, according to his lawsuit against the state and the company that runs the catamaran. The Waipahu resident dove off the back to disembark, as he had done a year earlier. A manager for Manu Kai said passengers are told not to jump off, but according to Tablit's attorney, employees failed to alert those onboard.
"He crashed into the bottom that was severely changed because of the fill from the state," Galiher said.
Beach boys in Waikiki say they've noticed dramatic changes.
"It's not low tide now, but if you look out there you can see people, it's like knee-high in certain areas. We call it the new sandbar over there where it wasn't that shallow before," said Aaron Rutledge of Star Beachboys.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages. They also want the state to put up signs to warn beachgoers about the danger.
A spokesperson for the Department of Land and Natural Resources declined to comment since the state has not yet been served. Copyright 2014Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.