Lifeguard receives Coast Guard hono

Maui County lifeguard Keoki Pfaeltzer was presented with the Coast Guard Certificate of Valor on Friday for attempting to save a struggling snorkeler off Maalaea last June.

Capt. Shannon Gilreathe, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu commanding officer, presented the award to Pfaeltzer in a ceremony in Mayor Alan Arakawa’s office.

On June 14, Pfaeltzer, who was off duty at the time, saw a snorkeler struggling in 35-mph winds and strong ocean current in Maalaea Bay. He immediately notified Maui County dispatch for assistance and alerted the individual’s friends and fellow campers on the beach, the Coast Guard said.

Realizing the urgency of the situation, he grabbed his surfboard and rescue tube from his residence and began paddling against the strong seas to assist the snorkeler, who was unconscious. Pfaeltzer used his training as a certified lifeguard and began CPR while balancing the victim on his surfboard for about 10 minutes.

Pfaeltzer flagged down a passing Coast Guard boat to assist in the recovery of the victim from the water. Unfortunately, the snorkeler did not survive, the Coast Guard said.

“His skills, expertise and training as a Maui County lifeguard were clearly displayed as he made a valiant effort to save a life,” the Coast Guard said.

Pfaeltzer was joined at the ceremony by his wife, mother and two children.