How to survive being swept into the ocean
Click here to watch Andrew Pereira's report.
Three of those who were killed died after falling off Rock Bridge, a natural outcrop near Hanauma Bay that stretches from one side of the rocky shoreline to the other. Three more people, including Williams, died after being swept into the ocean at Halona Blowhole near Sandy Beach, which attracts hundreds of visitors every day.
City and County lifeguards say their first line of defense against the dangers of rocky shorelines is warning signs, which they erect daily.
"All day every day we warn people of the dangers of Hawaii, and we really want people to pay attention and listen to our warnings," said East Oahu lifeguard Lt. James Sloane. "But, once you get onto that rocky shoreline where the waves are banging on those rocks, it is very, very dangerous."
However, if the unexpected happens and you're swept into the ocean, what should you do? KITV4 teamed up with lifeguards Kengi Gramberg and Ryan Reasoner to find out. From the safety of a WaveRunner they simulated being swept off the ledge near Halona Blowhole to show both locals and visitors what to do.
First, it's likely that those who are unfamiliar with the ocean will react differently to being swept off a ledge.
"One, they're going to have some injuries likely from that fall, and more significantly, they're going to panic," said Sloane. "Understandably, they're in a blue, open ocean and they see people on the cliffs looking at them and they have no idea that a rescue craft or a helicopter is on the way."
Although it may seem unnatural, lifeguards say your first step should be to swim farther out to sea, away from the rocky shoreline you were just standing on. Attempting to climb wet, slippery and jagged rocks while waves crash against the shore almost always leads to a trip to the hospital or even death.
"You're going to get injured to the point of unconsciousness likely, and then there's basically no hope," said Sloane. "We just try to tell people as much as they can to stay calm and help is on the way."
With the utilization of mobile patrols, Oahu lifeguards can respond to an incident in a matter of minutes. That's especially true if bystanders are present and the person in trouble makes his or her situation known by waving their arms high in the air.
"We'll get a number of 911 calls and we'll respond immediately," said Sloane. "If they can just tread water until we get there, they should be good to go."
If you happen to be swept into the ocean while fully dressed, it's best not to stay that way as clothing can weigh you down. Once removed a pair of pants or even a shirt can provide flotation if it's folded in a way that captures air.
"First of all, if you have shoes on, you need to take them off immediately and get rid of them," said Sloane. "And pants, you can tie knots on the end of the pant leg and make somewhat of a life preserver."
Finally, if you're on an isolated rocky ledge with no bystanders, you should still swim out to sea and travel with the prevailing current if you get swept in. Sloane says you should eventually find a safe beach to land on.
"You're generally going to swim parallel to the shoreline, and sooner or later, there's going to be an inlet or a safe zone where you can swim up into a safe area," he said.
One of the best ways to check ocean conditions before arriving at the beach is to go online at www.hawaiibeachsafety.com.