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Kauai beaches' history of drownings

Kauai Island beaches have been a popular tourist destination and the location of movies such as "Blue Hawaii." These beaches have also been the site of several fatal accidents, including 316 drownings from 1970 through 2012. Frank Sinatra, in fact, almost drowned in a riptide during the filming of "None but the Brave" in 1964.

Drowning is the top cause of death for tourists in this state. Tourists comprised 75 percent of the drowning victims. From 1990 through 2008, there were 166 deaths from drownings compared to 144 deaths attributed to traffic accidents. The average age of the drowning victims was 46, while men suffered more drownings than women by a ratio of 9 to 1.

Kauai has almost 70 public beaches. Popular Poipu Beach is one of 10 beaches with a lifeguard station, along with sunbathing Hawaiian monk seals. However, this seemingly-safe beach has had the most fatalities. From 1970 to 2012, 41 swimmers drowned at Poipu, compared to seven at Queen's Bath and 29 at Hanakapiai.

Information on relatively unsafe swimming areas is not shared with the public. One public safety advocate has sought the placement of more effective signs closer to the shoreline of these beaches, which should include information on the number of drownings that occurred on a specific beach.

No warnings are provided about unexpected waves that may be dangerous to swimmers. Seas may be calm for 20 to 30 minutes and, then, huge waves suddenly come in.

This problem is increasing. In 2016, the number of drownings on Kauai more than doubled to 14 from the six drownings recorded in 2015. Garden Isle has already had seven drownings this year.

Families who suffer the loss of a loved one in a drowning accident may be entitled to compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit if another person's negligence played a role in their death. An attorney can help obtain evidence and assure that these rights may be pursued in court or in settlement negotiations.

Source: Honolulu Civil Beat, "The Deadliest Beach on Kauai Might Surprise You," Brittany Lyte, Sept. 25, 2017

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