A newlywed groom rescued a female snorkeler in her early 30s Thursday morning at Kamaole Beach Park I after she was struggling with strong winds and currents attributed to Hurricane Iselle, witnesses and a Maui Fire Department official said.
The woman was snorkeling alone about 30 yards offshore when she started "screaming bloody murder" around 7:30 a.m., a witness said.
"She was yelling, 'Help! Help! I'm drowning,' " said Brent Barcellona in a phone call Thursday. He and his new bride, Rosie, happened to be at the beach taking photos when they heard the commotion. "People were running around and freaking out and not sure what to do."
A woman in her early 30s is helped ashore by a lifeguard and California resident Brent Barcellona after nearly drowning Thursday morning at Kamaole Beach Park I.
ROSIE BARCELLONA photo
ROSIE BARCELLONA photo
Barcellona, 43, of Orange County, Calif., said ocean conditions were "pretty windy" with "a lot of whitecaps coming in close to shore."
The slightly heavy-set woman was stuck near some lava rocks and was attempting to swim back to shore, but against the current, Barcellona said. The lifeguard station was too far away to respond immediately so he climbed down the rocky shoreline using a boogie board to help the woman.
"I just thought I can't watch this. This lady is drowning out there. Somebody give me a board," he said. "When I got to her, she was so tired she couldn't move her arms in a swimming motion at all. She was just bobbing up and down, and pretty much going under."
Barcellona, an avid surfer and swimmer, said he tried to calm the woman by talking to her and telling her to focus on her breathing. The woman was nearly hyperventilating and had swallowed some water, he said.
The two floated on the board, side by side until a lifeguard reached them and escorted them back to shore. There, paramedics, police and other lifeguards were waiting, Barcellona said. The woman's younger brother met her at shore.
Barcellona had just been married Wednesday night at Makena Cove, he said. The couple had planned their wedding for Thursday night with Vickie Jackson of Love Maui Weddings, but they were forced to push it a day earlier because of the hurricane.
"She did the best you can to get people secured" without 24-hour notice, he said. "We lost some people, but the most important people like the minister and photographer were there."
On Thursday, the newlyweds had been walking along the beach to take photos and enjoy the scenery and were heading back to their condominium before they heard the woman's cries. Barcellona said it was just by chance that they happened to be in the area.
"I definitely wasn't expecting anything like this," he said. "It's strange how things happen, and I'm just glad no one got hurt."
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.