Support pours in for UH football player injured in wall diving accident

KAPAHULU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii football team is asking for prayers after a teammate was seriously injured in a wall diving accident Waikiki this weekend.

Kalepo Naotala, a 19-year-old incoming freshman from Virginia, was enjoying a longtime tradition on Saturday afternoon when his life changed in a flash.

Naotala was jumping off an area commonly referred as "Waikiki Walls" near Kapahulu around 2:45 p.m. He dove head first into the water and sources say he suffered a serious injury to his spine.

Head football coach Nick Rolovich says Naotala is a Warrior on and off the field.

"Any idea I get as far as community service, I text it out to the team and he's been at like three or four of them since he got here. So he's really been the six-month poster child of 'living aloha' and 'playing Warrior,'" Rolovich said.

Rolovich wouldn't go into detail about Naotala's injuries but said it is pretty serious.

According the Hawaii Trauma Registry, there have been five spinal cord injuries in that area from 2009 to 2016.

The city says that particular spot is dangerous because of the reef and shallow water.

"We have very shallow reef areas with some deep holes in between, and those holes in between are not real big, so if you miss, you're gonna hit the shallow reef area," said Emergency Services Department Director Jim Howe.

There are lifeguards and warning signs posted. But Howe is calling on the community for help.

"If you see someone who you're not familiar with coming to one of these areas like the Kapahulu groin and you don't think they understand, please take the time to stop your activity and go up and help them…pass on your wisdom and knowledge of the area...make them the beneficiary of your knowledge and experience and we can avert some of these tragedies," Howe said.

Rolovich said the UH Athletics Department is working with the NCAA on fundraising options to help Naotala's family with medical expenses. He is asking the community for support.

"Prayers and thoughts for Lepo and the family. As far as the team, right now, this is gonna affect us one way or the other…either we come together and push forward because of it…and that's what I think this team will do because Kalepo means a lot to this team," said Rolovich.

Naotala didn't enroll until this past spring because he was recovering from a knee injury.

He was expected to compete for playing time in the 'Bows defensive this upcoming season.

Counseling has been made available to the team.

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