Uptick in rescues at popular Spitting Caves worrying first responders

Uptick in rescues at popular Spitting Caves worrying first responders
Published: Jul. 14, 2016 at 9:02 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 14, 2016 at 9:56 PM HST
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HAWAII KAI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dozens of recent rescues at the popular Spitting Caves in east Oahu have emergency responders once again urging people to stay out of the water in the area.

"It's a great place to go look, take a picture. That's fine," said Ocean Safety Capt. James Sloane. "We just want to keep people out of the water. That's our main goal.

Officials say the popularity of jumping into the water from the cliff is growing, especially among tourists who see the spot on social media.

The breathtaking views from Portlock Point draw a crowd at almost every sunset. Thrill seekers, meanwhile, are drawn to the 50-plus-foot drop into a small pool of water below. The pool is right in front of a cave that spits out sea spray from larges waves.

Sloane says there have been more than a dozen rescues since Memorial Day at Spitting Caves.

Most of the rescues are near drownings, but they see a lot of injuries as a result of people hitting the cliff during the fall. Just this past weekend, there were two rescues at the popular spot, including a teenager who suffered a serious head injury.

Each rescue call requires a response from firefighters, lifeguards and paramedics.

"We prepare for the worst," Sloane said.

To get to the victim, Ocean Safety or Honolulu Fire Department responders must launch Jet Skis from Maunalua Bay. To get to a victim right away, though, a lifeguard jumps in the water with a float to keep the victim above water. The responder on the Jet Ski then takes the victim back to Maunalua Bay, where paramedics are waiting.

Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Dale Mosher said the thrill isn't worth the risk.

"If something in the back of your head is saying, 'Wow, I wonder if it's safe or not?' maybe you should not go," he said.

First responders say social media sites describing Spitting Caves' gorgeous views have lured more tourists over the years. That combined with the number of locals congregating at the spot have made it harder to keep people out of the water.

They're hoping more media coverage of the dangers will convince people to go for the stunning pictures, but not for the plunge.

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