8 visitors hurt or killed in Hawaii waters in 8 days

Reactions to tourist ocean rescues across the state

ANINI, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The United States Coast Guard, firefighters and ocean safety crews are searching for a woman who was swept off a North Shore beach in Kauai.

It's the eighth visitor in eight days to get in trouble in the Hawaii waters.

Four were swept off rocks in Kahakuloa, Maui last Monday, one is still missing. Plus, there were two rescues in South Maui last Thursday, one of the victims died. And a California man's body was pulled from the Waianapanapa freshwater caves in Hana on Sunday.

All the recent deaths and rescues are renewing the call for counties to get a bigger share of the so-called "hotel tax" to be used for public safety.

In the most recent search and rescue effort, authorities say the 22-year-old woman from Baltimore was swimming at Anini Beach Monday evening when she ran into trouble. Rescuers say there have been no signs of her.

Kauai Lifeguard Kalani Vierra says winter swells can stir the water.

"The bigger the wave, the stronger the current and people tend to go swimming on the inside of the bay and lot of people end up getting sucked out through this channel, so we've been having a lot of problems there in the last few months," Vierra said.

Last year, Vierra helped create a video to keep visitors safe. It plays at the Lihue Airport and on Kauai's visitor channel. Vierra says it can warn people, but it can't save them.

"I think more lifeguard towers around our island would make our beaches much safer. Obviously it does cost a great amount of money to start up a lifeguard operation at one particular beach," said Vierra.

More money is the goal. County leaders say it should come from the Transient Accommodation Tax, or the hotel tax. Right now, counties have to share $103 million. But last fiscal year, the state collected $421 million. The Hawaii State Association of Counties is asking for a 45-percent share which would approximately double their current funding.

Maui's Mayor Alan Arakawa said the county needs more resources since tourists aren't following warning signs.

"We have authors that are putting out books like 'hidden secrets, 'Maui revealed' that are sending people to areas they shouldn't be going to, into private property, into isolated areas. We don't have the manpower to be able to monitor all these areas where people shouldn't be," Arakawa said.

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