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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rescue tubes saving lives

Rescue tubes saving lives

Dennis Fujimoto - The Garden Island The Garden Island | Posted: Monday, December 13, 2010 11:45 pm | (7) Comments

Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island Dr. Monty Downs gets help from Hanalei Bay Rotarians Branch Lotspeich, George Corrigan, John Gillen and Bill Prinzing of the Rotary Club of Po‘ipu Beach in sizing up the 100th rescue tube that was installed Monday just east of the lifeguard tower at Kealia Beach. Downs estimates 10 lives were saved last year due to the tubes.

KEALIA — Dr. Monty Downs got help from the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay and the Rotary Club of Po‘ipu Beach in installing a milestone-marking rescue tube Monday at Kealia Beach.

“This is the 100th rescue tube being installed, so I think it deserves a little celebration,” Downs said between drilling out holes on the instructional signage and the pole securing the rescue tube and an emergency whistle.

Back-to-back drownings at Larsen’s Beach in mid-2008 gave birth to the project after CPR instructor John Tyler hung a rescue tube on a tree near the Larsen’s rip current, Downs said in an e-mail.

“Sure enough, within a few weeks, the rescue tube was used successfully in a crisis situation,” Downs said.

That prompted members of the Kaua‘i Water Safety Task Force to hang rescue tubes on trees near the high water mark at several beaches.

But that arrangement did not look so professional, and following some trial and error, a design was reached where a 10-foot length of 3-inch AVS plastic pipe was imbedded into the sand. The rescue tube, its instructional signage, and an emergency whistle were hung using stainless steel bolts.

The Monday installation brought the total number of rescue tubes at Kealia Beach to four, not including the tube Downs leaves at the lifeguard tower there.

“We’re almost through,” Downs said. “We’re looking at about 120 tubes being installed throughout the island.”

George Corrigan, president of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, said the program works.

“We’ve had 27 verified ‘rescues’ since the project started, and countless numbers of unverified uses of the tubes,” he said.

Down said he recently attended a conference at the University of Hawai‘i where drowning was the leading cause of fatal injuries among non-residents in Hawai‘i between 2005 and 2009.

During that period, there were 167 cases reported, accounting for 46 percent. The second cause of fatal injuries during that same period among non-residents resulted from auto accidents with 35 cases reported, or 10 percent.

On Kaua‘i, during that same period, drownings were reported at 36 cases, or 56 percent. This was followed by eight fatalities in helicopter crashes at 13 percent and seven cases in automobile crashes, or 11 percent.

Downs said after reviewing the cases where rescue tubes were used, he feels at least 10 of the instances would have resulted in death had it not been for the presence of the rescue tubes.

But the rescue tube stations do not replace the lifeguards, he said. In many cases, they supplement the corps of water safety officers because the beaches, especially during the summer months, still have a lot of people when the lifeguards retire for the day.

“The lifeguards documented 248 rescues last year, and our No. 1 message to visitors is ‘Please swim near a lifeguard,’” Downs said.

He said Polihale has 12 rescue-tube stations, Moloa‘a has five, Hanakapi‘ai has four, Kalalau has three and Kalapaki has five. Rotarian John Gillen said this equates to about a station at less than a quarter-mile interval at the more frequented beaches.

Following the installation, Rotarian Branch Lotspeich of the Hanalei Bay club proceeded to use his iPhone to take a picture of the installation, and following that, got a Global Positioning System readout.

Downs said this is the next phase of the program where each station will be located with GPS and pinpointed on a map of Kaua‘i, a project being undertaken by Lotspeich and the Hanalei Bay Rotarians.

“Volunteers from around the island can ‘adopt a beach’ and see to it that the stations are intact,” Downs said. “If they’re not, they can replace the lost tube.”

The stations will also be numbered and the numbers submitted to central dispatch who would know exactly where to send professional rescue personnel in response.

Downs said of the 100 stations, there have been about 20 lost — either used in a rescue and not returned, or taken away for unknown reasons.

“We have been fortunate to have sufficient donations which allow us to keep up with these losses and not fret much about them,” he said. “We have been finding that the tubes that are most exposed to sun and wind may have a life of just 18 to 24 months before needing replacement. This project will continue to have maintenance expenses.”

He said with the 100 stations, a public awareness of the rescue tubes has developed.

After hosting a conference that featured a demonstration of the project, the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay has been receiving inquiries from clubs on Maui and other parts of the state interested in setting up a similar program.

Downs said the value of education is witnessed when a visitor to Polihale sees the 12 stations and something triggers in his mind that there must be a reason for so many rescue tubes in that area.

The Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay — celebrating its Black-and-White Ball Dec. 4 to help generate funds for the rescue tube project — is one of the community organizations that have stepped forward to help the Kaua‘i Water Safety Task Force realize its dream of getting the rescue tubes onto more beaches, especially those frequented by visitors.

Other donors include the Samuel W. Wilcox Trust, Rotary Club of Po‘ipu Beach, Grove Farm Company, Caldwell Banker/Bali Hai Realty, the Woody Peeples family, the Bill Duke family, and friends of Heather Westphal and Tonya Cataldo.

“There have been a very significant and crucial number of more modest donors who have donated money for one, or two rescue tube stations,” Downs said, noting the cost for each set-up is about $150. “Particularly moving are donations both by people who have been saved by a rescue tube’s presence, and by families and friends of people who drowned on our beaches, expressing a determination to try and help other families avoid that tragic fate.”

Contributions to the furtherance of this project can be made to the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association, 160 Lani Alii Place, Kapa‘a, HI 96746.

Copyright 2010 The Garden Island. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Visitors saved by off-duty fire fighter using Our Rescue Tube, lifeguards

Date: September 29, 2010 10:30:33 AM HST
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;
Subject: NR09-29-10 (Visitors saved by off-duty fire fighter, lifeguards)


News Release
For Immediate Release: September 29, 2010

Tel (808) 241-4980
Fax (808) 241-6508

Visitors saved by off-duty fire fighter, lifeguards

'ANINI – Two male visitors from Bremerton, WA were rescued yesterday morning at 'Anini Beach by an off-duty fire fighter and jet ski operators.
The men had been swimming at 'Anini near the river mouth at around 10 am when they got caught in a rip current at the north end of the channel.
Seeing the men in distress, Micah Thayer, an off-duty fire fighter, grabbed a rescue tube that was on the beach and swam out to them.
Thayer utilized the rescue tube to keep the two men afloat and prevented them from being swept out to sea.
Lifeguards Chad Listman and Chris Pico arrived at the scene on a jet ski from Hanalei Bay and brought the men to shore where they were checked by Hanalei fire fighters and medics.
The men refused further treatment and were released at the scene.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rip Current Safety Video Segment from

Hi all,

I wanted to share with you this rip current safety video segment I just saw on Bookmark it and send it to friends who may come here as well.

John Tyler

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Safety advocate just happy to help

Safety advocate just happy to help
Legal concerns deter commission from thanking lifeguard

Léo Azambuja - The Garden Island | Posted: Monday, June 7, 2010 11:45 pm | (8) Comments

LIHU‘E — A dramatic ocean rescue last March in Hanakapi‘ai Beach, in the remoteness of Na Pali Coast, saved the lives of a visiting Oregon father and his two young sons.

Key to that happy ending was a rescue tube strategically placed on the beach that the family used to stay afloat until lifeguards arrived at the scene.

Lifeguard instructor John Tyler, who had the initiative to place the $50 floating device at that beach and elsewhere throughout the island, will not receive an official thank you from the county Fire Commission despite its members desire to do so.

The commission at last month’s meeting officially commended the firefighters. This prompted Fire Commissioner George Simpson to suggest that Tyler receive at least a recognition letter. But Deputy County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask advised the commissioners to defer the decision to the following month.

“I just want to make sure we can avoid, through the benevolent action of commending someone for that, we don’t passively put our seal of approval,” Trask told the commissioners at the May meeting.

Trask said hopefully the liability issue wouldn’t be a problem. But after the meeting Monday, following an executive session, the commission decided the best action was to “take no action.”

This means it’s official that there will be no formal county mahalo to Tyler.

“I don’t mind that they didn’t give me an official proclamation,” Tyler humbly said. “I’m just glad that I can be of help in the community, whether it’s officially seen or not.”

Rescue tubes

About three years ago, Tyler placed a rescue tube on Larsen’s Beach, hanging from a tree. That was just the beginning of something about to become much larger.

Tyler said after the commission had deferred thanking him for the initiative, “the Rotary Club came forward and said, ‘Hey, we’ll give you thanks,’ and they handed us a $4,000 check.”

The Los Angeles lifeguard instructor, who’s also the vice chair of the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association, has teamed up with long-time water safety advocate Dr. Monty Downs. Together, they place rescue tubes around the island and train people on how to use them.

There are currently about 65 of those tubes on Kaua‘i beaches, strategically hanging from poles. Only about a month ago, there were just 25 of those tubes.

Tyler said he may have had the original idea, but it was Downs who “took the ball and ran with it.”

Hanakapi‘ai Beach

After what Simpson called a “spectacular” rescue last March at Hanakapi‘ai Beach, another tube was placed there. Downs and Tyler are planning on taking a zodiac there this summer and placing another tube, plus one at Kalalau Beach, farther down the coast.

“It’s such a strong shorebreak, people get sucked out and if they don’t have a rescue tube it’s very difficult for them to get back in,” Tyler said of Hanakapi‘ai, one of the deadliest beaches in the entire state.

Hanakapi‘ai, besides the strong current and shorebreak, also has an accessibility problem. Rescuers can only get there via helicopter, boat or two-mile hike.

Tyler said they tried to install satellite phones at the beach, but the county said it would be a liability issue.

“They wouldn’t allow us,” he said. “But we were able to put the rescue tubes up there and they have not said no.”

Tyler said now it may be time to revisit the idea of a satellite phone. “Who knows if they’ll be approved this time?”

Beach Guardian

Putting up the rescue tubes is only part of the program. Tyler and Downs have already trained about 85 local residents on how to properly use them.

Anyone who’s 15 years old and interested in becoming certified as a Beach Guardian is eligible for the training. But students also have to be healthy swimmers, Tyler said.

“We teach them CPR and first aid for free, and also lifeguarding. It’s a one-day course, usually on a Saturday,” said Tyler, adding that he’ll be teaching more courses in the next few months.

“My aim is to have probably 200 to 300 people trained,” he said.

Classes were previously held in Hanalei, Kealia, Kalapaki and Po‘ipu, and these will probably be the same places where Tyler will teach this summer.

Ocean Safety Bureau Supervisor Kalani Vierra also helps in the Beach Guardian program, as a volunteer.

Original idea

“This program is modeled after the New Zealand Surf Life Saving organization. It’s a totally volunteer organization,” Tyler said.

In New Zealand there are 6,000 volunteer lifeguards. They all have their own daily jobs, but put in their time guarding the beaches. The volunteer lifeguards go through a two-week program, and are trained to be “fully regular lifeguards,” Tyler said.

The New Zealand SLS has been around for about 100 years, according to Tyler.

“I flew down there about a year ago and asked them what the program was like, and I thought, ‘Yeah, we can do that,’” said Tyler, adding that’s the goal of the Beach Guardian program.

“We’re all trying to add our best things to have as few people drown out there,” he said.

For more information, contact Tyler at or at 635-7062.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer,

can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or

Friday, May 28, 2010

Several more rescue tubes at: Polihale, Donkey's, and Anahola

Dr. Monty Downs Reports he was able to get installed:

Last week 4 more tubes at Polihale, now a total of 6 there. Poipu Rotary, spearheaded by Bill Prinzig, is planning to put up another 8 - 10, nicely spaced every 100 - 150 yards and giving that very remote beach a real line-up.

2 more at Donkey's, for a total of 3 well-spaced ones there. Still looking at one more there.

2 more at Anahola for a total of 3, looking at a couple more there.

Reliable report that there are actually 2 on vegetation at Hanakapiai, so the total has now reached the solid number of 60. Implanted ones with placards will go up this summer, at Kalalau as well.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rescue Tube Story Rescue #13

Hi John:

Dr. Monty Downs Reports:

Some great rescue tube news. About a month ago I was on the North Shore with a couple of set-ups and I asked the Haena Lifeguard where to put 'em. He told me about a place I never would have thought of, namely a lagoon with a rip in front of the Hanalei Colony Resort. So up it went.

On Saturday I was out there again, this time with a Hanalei Rotarian as my helper. Put up 4 more, filling in some soft spots. Zero vandalism. That same lifeguard reported that a week or so ago there was a 911 call for a swimmer in distress at the Hanalei Colony Resort. He got there and found that someone had grabbed the tube and both people were hanging onto it when he arrived and he pulled them to shore.

The Rotarian (George Corrigan) was pretty impressed by all this, and today he called to say that he's successfully lined up $5,000 from a North Shore family's trust! That's a lot of rescue tubes -- and you can start looking at ways to draw up invoices for Beach Guardians. George got talking about how this rescue tube concept could really eventually spread (via Rotarians) across the U.S., even in states with lakefronts or other public swimming holes.