After 'floatilla' chaos, lawmakers seek to ban drinking in ocean

Hawaii lawmakers take up bill aiming to curb floatilla events
Published: Mar. 1, 2018 at 1:54 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 12:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After the chaos caused by last July's alcohol-fueled floatilla, there's a push by Hawaii lawmakers to crack down on drinking in ocean waters.

A proposal moving forward in House — House Bill 2617 — would make it illegal to drink alcohol within 1,000 yards of any beach or shoreline statewide.

The measure only applies to individuals who are swimming, floating, wading or bodysurfing — with or without a flotation device.

During the July Fourth floatilla, 10 people were taken to the hospital, one of them in critical condition, and ocean safety crews were stretched thin rescuing hundreds of participants from the ocean.

"The hope is we can get this under control," said State Rep. Kaniela Ing, who co-introduced the bill. "We've given these event organizers many chances and people's lives are in danger."

The city's emergency services director says these kinds of events are not only dangerous for those participating, but says they also put the rest of the public at risk.

"When we're pulling our resources in to transport and treat people from this particular event, if something happens on another part of the island, there may or may not be an ambulance unit that can get there as quickly to support that issue," said Jim Howe, Department of Emergency Services Director.

While the proposal seems to have wide support, some visitors say it would make them think twice about coming to Hawaii.

"If I wanna have a drink or beer, I wouldn't even want to come here because I'm on vacation," said Carlos Navos, who's visiting from Miami Beach.

The bill was changed to exclude commercial tours and events with approved permits.

Some lawmakers questioned if if the proposal should also only apply to certain beaches or specific holiday weekends.

Ing says the bill will help fix a loophole in the law.

"It's not OK to drink on the beach, that's illegal, but as soon as you step into the water, there's a loophole that allows you to drink," he said.

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