The message to beach-bound July Fourth revelers: Have fun but stay safe

Updated: Jul. 1, 2019 at 4:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A lot of people are expected to hit the water July Fourth.

And officials want to prevent a repeat of the chaos they’ve seen off Waikiki in recent years.

In recent years, thousands have flocked to so-called “floatillas" on the water to party. In 2017, hundreds were rescued at the event and 10 people were taken to hospitals.

The following year, 450 revelers were rescued, despite the heavy presence of law enforcement.

Honolulu Ocean Safety Capt. Kurt Lager said alcohol and heading out on the water just don’t mix.

“There’s going to be surf, there’s going to be a lot of people, we’re going to have high tides,” he said. “There’s a lot of hazards out there.”

Experts want to remove alcohol as one of those hazards.

“We absolutely recommend that you don’t drink and go into the ocean,” said Lager. “It’s never a good mix, swimming, alcohol, surfing, alcohol, etc.”

Officials say alcohol was a big factor in the rescues in 2017 and again in 2018. Many of those who had to be rescued were underage drinkers.

The U.S. Coast Guard is also warning about the danger.

“This weekend is Operation Dry Water, which is a nationwide campaign to educate boaters about the dangers of boating under the influence,” said Eddy Crochetiere, a maritime enforcement specialist with the Coast Guard.

“So we’re going to be conducting boater education on the water, as well as maximum enforcement of our boating under the influence laws.”

He said anyone planning to participate in “floatilla” is “taking their lives into their own hands.”

“Although the Coast Guard as well as our local and state partners are putting pretty much every rescue asset we have on the water, that’s only a few compared to what could be thousands of people drunk and on the water floating," he said.

Enforcement won’t be just on the water.

“We will be addressing alcohol violations in the beach parks as well as the parks, so there’s no open containers, no drinking in public basically, and there’s no alcoholic beverages at all in any of the beach parks,” said Shawn Fujimoto, with the Honolulu Police Department.

Authorities are also hoping people will clean up after themselves. One recent floatilla event resulted in hundreds of pounds of trash and other debris left at the beach and in the ocean.

“I was talking to one of the law enforcement officials and he had gone scuba diving the day after, and he said the bottom of the ocean was just covered in beer bottles and trash,” said Cort Chambers, of the Hawaii State Fusion Center.

“And that stuff, if it’s not cleaned up, it’s just gonna go out into the ocean and make a worse environment for the natural habitat as well.”

Chambers and others say the situation improved last year, but they want to make sure that people and the environment will remain safe for the holiday.

“Go out and enjoy yourselves, It’s the Fourth of July,” said Chambers. “Have a good time, but just be mindful of your safety.”

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