LANAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Free divers say sharing Lanai's Kaumalapau Harbor with tour operators has been dangerous. On Sunday, it proved deadly.
Fisherman Alan Amoncio, 51, was struck and killed by a whale-watching tour boat. Lanai is home to a small, tight-knit community, and news of his death spread quickly.
Friends say Amoncio was well-known by students on Lanai because he worked as a school custodian. They describe him as a kind-hearted man with a passion for spearfishing that began when he was in high school.
"All these years we've been doing that thing, you know, diving and catching fish and food for the family," Wendell Sarme, victim's friend, said.
But his ocean adventure on Sunday turned deadly. The 51-year-old was free diving at popular fishing spot Kaumalapau Harbor on the west coast of Lanai at about 10:35 AM, when a boat's propeller struck him.
Friends say he was with his wife, Kiki, at the time.
"He's a very nice guy," Jonie Sarme, victim's friend, said. "Him and his wife, they're very nice people. We're just saddened by this tragic loss."
"He's a safe diver," Wendell Sarme said. "He always dives with his flags and his floaters and stuff."
Maui fire officials identified the boat involved as the Wiki Wahine, a tour zodiac operating out of Lahaina Harbor. On its web site, Ultimate Whale Watch Maui says its 30-foot vessel is capable of speeds up to 50 miles an hour.
"They're just going fast, just cruising the coastline, every bend and every turn, just hogging the coastline, just to give the tourists a thrill," Wendell Sarme said. "It's like they don't got no respect over here."
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources confirmed that the victim had set up flags marking his position in the water.
"It could have been prevented," Jonie Sarme said. "So for this to happen to Alan, it's so, we're sad. The Lanai community, we're sad."
No one on the boat was injured. The tour company did not return our phone call.
DLNR and the US Coast Guard are investigating.