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3 divers found by Coast Guard in deep water

The Maui News

The Coast Guard rescued three divers who waved their flippers to attract attention after they lost contact with their vessel and became stranded north of Hookipa Beach Park on Monday afternoon.

“These were seasoned divers who became lost after diving for an extended amount of time,” said Lt. Megan Bowis, command center chief at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. “It can happen to anyone. By staying together and calling attention to themselves with their fins and splashing, we found them.”

Police notified the Coast Guard at about 2 p.m. that the operator of a 23-foot boat transporting the divers lost contact with them in deep water about 20 miles north of Hookipa, according to the Coast Guard.

Winds of 9 mph and waves up to 7 feet were reported when an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu found the vessel and began the search for the missing divers. An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew located the missing divers, who were waving their flippers in the air, the Coast Guard said. The airplane crew dropped a flare so the boat crew could find the divers, according to the Coast Guard said.

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Maui and the Coast Guard Cutter Ahi crew also responded to the search.

The boat crew rescued the divers and transported them back to their vessel.

Coast Guard Station Maui personnel escorted the boat back to Kahului Harbor.

No injuries were reported.

“Super successful case, these guys stuck together. We got assets out on the scene quickly, and we saved three lives,” said Chief Petty Officer Ekahi Lee, officer-in-charge of Coast Guard Station Maui. “We see an increase in blue water diving; it’s becoming more of a sport than recreation here in Hawaii.”

He recommended the following safety tips:

• Have safety equipment, including lights and flotation devices, and have everything marked.

• Take a Personal Locator Beacon that can help searchers locate you quickly.

• Stay together and have a plan, let others know where you’re going and when you’re coming back.

• Be visible. Red glow sticks or chemlights are inexpensive, fit in a pocket, and show up well on night-vision instruments.