Lahaina man dies in waters off East Maui

Group was hiking to explore shoreline rock formations

The Maui News

A 38-year-old Lahaina man died Sunday while swimming in the ocean at the spot known as Puka Maui in the Kailua area of East Maui, a fire official said.

Police identified the man as Kevin Grealish.

After emergency crews responded to the 12:25 p.m. call, a rescue crew aboard the Fire Department’s Air One helicopter spotted the victim with five other people on a rocky point near the water’s edge about a mile makai of Hana Highway, said Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto.

He said firefighters were lowered in by helicopter to reach the remote coastal location near Mile Marker 7.

The victim was loaded into a rescue basket and airlifted to medics waiting on the highway at around 1:15 p.m., Taomoto said. He said paramedics evaluated the victim and pronounced the man dead at the scene.

Taomoto said the man and six friends had made the 60- to 90-minute hike down from the trailhead on Hana Highway to explore a natural rock formation on the shoreline. The group had entered the water to swim to the opposite side of the bay. It’s unclear what went wrong, but friends eventually saw the victim floating unresponsive in the water and jumped in to retrieve him, Taomoto said. He said friends pulled the man onto the rocky point where they began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

“It was at least an hour later before someone from the group reached Hana Highway and got cellphone reception to make the 911 call for help,” Taomoto said. “By the time rescue crews got the victim to paramedics, too much time had passed and the victim could not be revived.”

The death was Maui County’s 11th ocean-related fatality this year.

Firefighters from Paia, a Kahului fire rescue crew and police responded to the incident.