WAILUKU - An athlete participating in the Maui Channel Swim from Lanai to Maui on Saturday was struck by a boat, nearly severing his hand, fire officials said.
It was apparently the second incident to occur in the channel Saturday, after a different boat sank as it was heading to Lanai for the start of the race, participants said.
Maui County Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga said the man was approaching Maui when the incident occurred. He said the victim sustained injuries to his right forearm and left hand, which was partially severed.
The swimmer, a 41-year-old man from Half Moon Bay, Calif., was about 200 yards offshore when he was struck by a 28-foot boat at 2:22 p.m., said Maui Police Lt. Wayne Ibarra.
The vessel was a private escort boat assisting one of the teams competing in the race and was not an official event boat, he noted.
"It accidentally ran over that 41-year-old swimmer," he said.
The man was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center.
The Coast Guard was notified, and the Maui Police Department and the Department of Land and Natural Resources were investigating the incident, Ibarra said.
Earlier in the day, participants said, another escort boat sank off Lanai as it was heading to the start of the race.
Layne Nakagawa, captain of the Naomi K., which responded to the incident, said the boat apparently began taking on water midway between Maui and Lanai.
"By the time we got there, everybody had to abandon ship," he said, adding that the incident occurred around 7:30 a.m.
Police and Fire officials were unable to provide more information about the incident.
Kalei Luuwai, whose boat was one of the first to arrive on the scene, said he saw it happen.
"We saw the boat go really low, really low, really low, and then we saw all these people jump off with life jackets," he said.
Around 11 people were in the water, several of them swimmers on their way to the start of the race. Luuwai brought aboard more than half of the victims, while the rest were picked up by Nakagawa and another boater, he said.
Most took it in stride, but one woman decided not to participate in the race after the incident, he said. He said conditions were rough, with strong winds and "choppy" seas. Escort boats had to keep a sharp lookout during the race, he said.
"It got real tricky to find your people," he said.
The race was scheduled to start at 8 a.m. but was delayed due to weather.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at email@example.com.