WAILUKU, Maui — There have been 10 ocean-related deaths in Maui waters since Jan. 1, fire officials said.
Nine of those deaths happened last month and the most recent was Saturday morning, the Maui News reported .
An 80-year-old Homer, Alaska, man was found dead while snorkeling on Saturday.
Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said all the deaths appear to be random. The victims have been all men ages 50 and older, Taomoto said.
Eight of the nine January incidents occurred in calm waters, so rough ocean conditions were not a factor in the spike of deaths, Taomoto said. There was heavy surf during the incident on Saturday, though.
Eight were visitors while two were Maui residents.
Daniel Galanis, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health, said nine deaths over a two-week period in January “is an extreme total.”
Galanis said he hopes to do a formal analysis of the deaths.
“So a simple explanation for the increasing number of (ocean deaths) is there are more visitors,” Galanis said. “It may also be visitors are engaging in more demanding activities.”
Cary Kayama, Maui County’s Ocean Safety operations manager, said lifeguards have been seeing more visitors as well at the 12 beaches staffed by lifeguards.
“On a daily basis, lifeguards take an estimate of how many people visit the beach each day,” he said. “Our statistics have been showing an increase in beach attendance every year.”
The busiest months are December and January with beach attendance rising again in June through August, he said.
Sherry Duong, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau, said last week that bureau officials had not received any inquiries about the ocean deaths.