A deadly start for Hawaii drownings
The number of Maui visitors who drowned this year is the same number of drownings for all of 2016. A spike in ocean deaths starts off 2018.
A deadly start for 2018 with a spike in Maui drownings.
Nine deaths happened around the Valley Isle over the past two weeks. Already as many visitors drowned this year as all of 2016.
Most of the victims who died this year were older visitors out snorkeling.
Drowning is the leading cause of death for visitors.
What is unknown is whether the type of equipment or snorkeling experience played a part in the deaths. Those in the industry share their insight with Island News.
Thousands get in Hawaii's waters every day.
For visitors, a big draw is snorkeling, but for the inexperienced, it can lead to big trouble.
"The biggest problem is they are not used to currents, or waves, or tides. People don't know how to counteract that," said Josh Childress, the General Manager of Dive Oahu.
Dive Oahu has all kinds of gear for snorkelers at all levels of ability, including the newer full face models that combine the old mask and snorkel.
"If you are not comfortable just breathing out of your mouth, like most new snorkelers, it is very nice. But it does have limitations," added Childress.
One of those limitations, is carbon dioxide buildup. If breaths are too shallow, the CO2 can accumulate in a mask or snorkel.
"In a snorkel, there is three times the dead air space. In a full face mask it is like 10 times. The carbon dioxide buildup does affect a snorkeler's composure in the water," said Robert Wintner, the owner of Snorkel Bob's.
"This creates panic. The type of breathing, overexerting breathing messes with your mind. You're not thinking clearly and you're trying to suck for that air. Staying calm is the most important thing you can do in diving, surfing, snorkeling... anything you do in the water," added Childress.
Dave Carvalho opened a surf shop because of his love for the water, but the experienced waterman ran into trouble while trying out the new full faced mask.
"With that mask, it cut off the air and caught me by surprise. I could see if someone didn't know what they were doing, they could end up panicking," said Carvalho, the owner of Big Wave Dave.
Carvalho rents snorkel sets in Waikiki, which has grown to be a big part of his business, "People are looking for mask, fins and snorkel before they go around the island. And they get it from us, it is only $12. We thought we'd provide a service that is needed in this area."
While visitors can pick up inexpensive snorkel sets what they don't usually get, according to Carvalho, is instructions on how to snorkel.
"It seems most people that come in here looking for mask, fins and snorkel know what they are getting it for," added Carvalho.
The state doesn't require safety instructions for businesses renting out snorkel gear.
but at Snorkel Bob's preparing people for the water comes with every rental .
"We've had no fatalities for 32 years because of quality equipment and signage, verbal instructions and guidance for every guest," added Wintner.
Some feel there should be regulations, so visitors know what to expect from their snorkeling experience before they hit the water.
"It is a lot more work than people see on TV, or in the movies. Some aren't quite ready for that, and it is a lot more work than it leads on," added Childress.
The state has started tracking what type of snorkel equipment is used during a drowning. For the recent spike in deaths, it was a mix of standard mask and snorkel along with the newer full face type.