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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 18, 2006

Two visitors swept to deaths off Maui

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Olivine Pools near Kahakuloa, Maui, where two people drowned yesterday when they were swept off the rocks and into the ocean.

CHRISTIE WILSON | The Honolulu Advertiser

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KAHAKULOA, Maui Two visitors drowned yesterday after being swept off the rocks at a hazardous area known as Olivine Pools northwest of Kahakuloa.

Witnesses told authorities a wave knocked a man into the water at around 12:50 p.m. As the woman with him was screaming for him, she was pulled into the ocean. The man was floating face down when the first rescuers arrived, but the woman was seen treading water before she died, said Maui Fire Department Rescue Capt. Derrick Arruda.

He said the bodies of the man and woman, whose names were not released, were recovered in deep water about 50 to 75 feet from the rocky coastline.

A Fire Department helicopter dropped two rescuers into the sea and lowered a Billy Pugh net to pick up the man. One of the firefighters performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him while they were airlifted to a grassy landing zone on the cliffs above the pools, Arruda said. Meanwhile, a county water safety rescue craft arrived from a West Maui beach, and the woman was put on its rescue sled. A water safety officer and the other firefighter conducted CPR on her before she was lifted in the net to the landing zone.

Arruda, who has helped rescue many people in the area, said the breathtaking scenery is very deceptive. "It's a very dangerous place. Its water rises and recedes quickly, so it can be really calm and all of a sudden a freak set comes in and if you're standing on the edge of the rocks, the waves will come up and grab you, and there's nothing you can do but swim out away from the shore," he said.

"The ocean there is pretty choppy, but it wasn't that rough (yesterday). When it's really rough, people don't go near the shoreline, but when it's like this, people get into trouble."

Visitors to the remote site must hike down a steep trail to get to a lava shelf. Some guidebooks recommend Olivine Pools as a "hidden" spot to visit, although public safety officials advise against it.

In April 2004, a 41-year-old California man and his 14-year-old daughter were swept into the sea at Olivine Pools. The girl survived but her father died.

Even as the bodies of the victims of yesterday's tragedy were being carried to an ambulance, tourists were pulling up farther down to the road at the trailhead to Olivine Pools. Matthew and Melissa Matz of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who were hiking back up from the site, said they read about the pools in the best-selling "Maui Revealed" guidebook.

Looking down at the ocean swells crashing onto the rocks, Melissa Matz, 32, said, "It doesn't even look like it's that strong."

Her husband said it's not until you get down close to the pools that the potential danger becomes more evident.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.