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Stream rose quickly

July 14, 2011
The Associated Press

HILO (AP) - Stream waters rose quickly in a brief but hard downpour before a Big Island man was swept away, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Wednesday.

Those who were fishing for prawns with Ernesto Combes, 43, told the newspaper they were unprepared for the stream to quickly rise to about 15 feet.

Combes has been missing since Sunday's flash flood at Kawainui Stream carried him away. Authorities have suspended a three-day search for him. Rescuers have recovered his spears, but nothing else.

"I was scared, I thought I'd lose my life," Combes' girlfriend, Cathy Balicoco, said. She also was caught in the flood but managed to hang on to a large rock until she was rescued. Balicoco, 45, was taken to the emergency room at Hilo Medical Center, where she was treated for scratches and bruises.

Her son, Ricky Mendoza, 21, said he and his girlfriend had just made it out of a cave in the stream when the flash flood carried away his mother and Combes. "We went to the cave so many times, but we never experience the water that came," Balicoco said.

About two dozen of Com-bes' friends and family gathered Tuesday afternoon around a bridge on the Onomea scenic route, near where he disappeared as a search helicopter hovered over the stream.

Rescuers said low visibility in the stream hampered the search effort.

"All I want now is to see his body," Balicoco said.



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