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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

Beach lifeguard rescues man at Kaua'i Wet Cave

Advertiser Staff

A lifeguard from Ha'ena Beach Park on Kaua'i rescued an O'ahu man from an underwater cave yesterday, Kaua'i firefighters said.

The alarm for a man missing in the "Blue Room" of the Waikapalae Wet Cave came in shortly after 3:36 p.m.

Firefighters said others have drowned in the Waikapalae Wet Cave, a lava tube with two chambers partially or fully submerged, depending on the water level. The Blue Room, the inner chamber, derives its name from the color of the light filtering through the water.

The Ha'ena Beach lifeguard heard the alarm. He was closer, so he got to the Wet Cave ahead of the firefighters.

The trapped swimmer, a 25-year-old La'ie man who had been exploring the area with a group of friends, had observed that the opening of the Blue Room was partially above water, so he swam in, Fire Capt. Hollis Peters said.

Because the chamber's brackish water provides less buoyancy than seawater, the man felt like he was sinking.

"He panicked," Peters said. "He started to hyperventilate."

The lifeguard swam in, calmed the man, put him in a flotation device and pulled him out. Firefighters gave him oxygen and sent him home with his friends.