KALAPAKI, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Five pilot whales are dead after a stranding on Kauai that moved many bystanders to tears.
Two short fin pilot whales died after beaching themselves sometime before 7:30 a.m., and several more were struggling in shallow waters.
On Friday evening, officials said there were three more dead whales in the water.
On the beach Friday morning, several people tried to help whales struggling in the waves.
And farther out, paddlers steered members of the pod back out to deeper waters.
"It was very traumatizing because what came to me, watching it, was that they weren't going to leave anyone behind," said Kaiulani Mahuka, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner.
David Schofield, a marine mammal response coordinator with NOAA, said there is a possibility that there could be more mass strandings in the coming days.
"Whales strand for a whole variety of reasons. And it's most often things like natural disease. Parasitic infections, viral infections, bacterial infections," Schofield said.
He added, "Pilot whales are some of the most social of the whale species and so if one or two of them are sick the whole pod will come ashore and it's hard to get those other ones to separate and go back out."
He said the stranded whales were about 15 feet long and weighed about 5,000 pounds.
The two whales that died early Friday were taken off the beach to undergo necropsies. State officials said they were working to remove the third whale Friday afternoon.
Mahuka said Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners will be present for the procedures.
"They said we can bury the whales after," she said. "We were very, very conflicted. Very, very hurt. We all agreed we need to know what happened to these whales."
Some, including Mahuka, said they believe Navy sonar testing was to blame for the stranding.
A spokesman for Navy Region Hawaii said "there is no indication" that the stranding is related to any naval activities, but added that officials are pulling training records and working with NOAA.
On Saturday, DLNR officials said no additional pilot whales beached themselves overnight. Crews will continue to monitor the bay. Officials are hopeful the remaining two whales seen swam out to sea.