'Floatilla' fiasco leads lawmaker to call for closing of alcohol consumption loophole

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - "Floatilla" hangovers aren't the only lingering effect of the Fourth of July party in Waikiki. Major concerns over public safety, underage drinking and enforcement have many demanding a crackdown on drinking alcohol in the ocean.

"Once you step into the water, it's technically legal for you to drink alcohol. That's where we need to step in and change the law. That's ultimately the legislature's duty," said State Rep. Kaniela Ing, who chairs the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs.

Ing says he plans to look at the legal loopholes that prevent law enforcement from cracking down on underage drinking on the ocean.

He says the same law that applies to the Kaneohe Sandbar -- which prohibits the possession, use, and consumption of alcohol -- should be enforced statewide.

He plans on pushing House leadership to take up the "floatilla" issue in the upcoming special session on rail.

"When these events happen, it really puts a strain on all of our first responders and taxpayers end up fronting the bill," Ing said.

EMS District Chief Colin Wong say he had to dedicate three of the five Metro Honolulu crews to the event, leaving just two ambulances to cover the rest of the population from Waikiki to Kalihi.

Lifeguards worked overtime until 7:30 p.m., while ocean safety added four additional jet ski teams to its crew, basically serving as a shuttle service for event participants.

"We were bringing in hundreds of people back to shore. From basically 2:30 p.m. all the way until the evening. It was non-stop," said Kurt Lager, Ocean Safety acting chief.

For police, the number of officers patrolling Waikiki was more than doubled to 34. But only six people are being investigated for promoting underage drinking.

"It's difficult for us because we need to observe the violation. And in this case, it was the end result where the juveniles were already intoxicated," said Lt. Eric Yosemori.

The State Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement says they are investigating an illegal commercial catamaran that was allegedly carrying as many as 40 people -- most of them underage.

Officers say there was a fight onboard, people were severely intoxicated and passed out, and there was no one operating the boat.

The vessel was taken to a dock, and the passengers were released to their parents.

Meanwhile, the mess that gets left behind is also drawing concerns.

The Coast Guard says it recovered more than 100 inflatable boats abandoned in the water.

Ing will push for new regulation in an upcoming special session.

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