Maui News

Body of California Visitor Recovered from Waiʻānapanapa Freshwater Caves

January 30, 2017, 5:19 AM HST
* Updated January 30, 8:21 AM
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Haili land formation at Waiʻānapanapa State Park. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Maui firefighters recovered the body of a 33-year-old male visitor from Novato, California, Sunday afternoon at the Waiʻānapanapa Freshwater Caves in Hāna.

Hāna firefighters received the call at 12:54 p.m. that a male was stuck in the freshwater caves after he dropped his light. The Hāna fire crew was on scene at 1:04 p.m. and met with the victim’s friends who said the victim and another male went into the cave and only one of them emerged.

Maui Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said firefighters making an initial assessment near the entrance to the cave could see the victim submerged underwater deeper within the cave system.

A rescue crew from Kahului arrived with the department’s Air 1 helicopter to assist in the rescue, but after learning of the recovery operation, did not have full capability to make an underwater body recovery into the confined overhead environment and cave system.

Air 1 flew back to Kahului to retrieve additional equipment and personnel necessary to make a safe entry into the cave where the victim was located about 75-feet from the cave entrance. The victim was brought out by the dive rescue team at 5:04 p.m. and turned over to Maui police.

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Two males and two females were swimming outside the freshwater caves before the two males decided to go exploring inside. FSC Taomoto said they used the light from a cell phone sealed in a plastic bag to see once inside the pitch dark cavern.

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When the victim did not exit the cave, the other male went back inside and found the cell phone, but could not locate his friend. He then exited the cave and called for help.

The three friends that were with the victim are all Maui residents.

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