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3 bodyboarders rescued after Honolii Stream surge

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At least three people were rescued Thursday afternoon after a flash flood at the mouth of Honolii Stream in Hilo took surfers and bodyboarders by surprise.

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At least three people were rescued Thursday afternoon after a flash flood at the mouth of Honolii Stream in Hilo took surfers and bodyboarders by surprise.

By 4:30 p.m., two bodyboarders who were washed out to sea were rescued — one by helicopter and another by a lifeguard on a paddleboard.

A third person remained missing at that time, according to witnesses. Later, a police dispatcher said the third person also was rescued.

The fire and police departments weren’t able to provide any additional information by press time.

The incident happened at about 3:30 p.m. when flash flooding caused by heavy rainfall gushed into Hilo Bay from the stream at Honolii Beach Park.

“They just got sucked out. The river was pushing out too hard,” said witness Lyle Estabilio.

Twelve-year-old Kai Bradley and an unidentified friend were bodyboarding when they noticed they suddenly were pushed far out from shore.

“We didn’t really notice it at first,” the boy said. “Then, the other guy, he was waving to the lifeguards.”

One lifeguard paddled out and took Kai to shore, while the second person needed to be airlifted by a county rescue helicopter.

“He didn’t want to go back in, he was nervous about what would happen,” Kai said.

While the two were pushed away from shore and back toward Hilo, a third unidentified person was carried off northward to the Hamakua side of the stream, onto the rocky beach at the point, said witness Shinji Salmoiraghi.

“Everybody was watching the guys who got pushed out, but we saw (the third person) on the beach walking around. He was OK. But now, I don’t think they can find him. No one knows what happened to him,” he said.

As Salmoiraghi spoke, the county’s rescue chopper flew back and forth along the mouth of the stream with a Billy Pugh net suspended underneath. Witnesses said a rescue worker rode the net down along the bank of the stream and gotten out to search for the missing person.

Kai’s mother, who didn’t give her name, said she was in their home nearby when she heard the helicopter overhead.

“Then I heard the sirens, and I thought, ‘That’s not good,’” she said. “That’s when I came down here.”

At first, no one could tell her what happened. They only said “two surfers were in distress.”

“‘What do you mean distress?’ I said. That could mean anything,” she said.

The woman said Kai checked the surf report Wednesday night and Thursday morning and saw that the waves weren’t expected to be very high.

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“We thought it was safe. I wouldn’t have let him come if it wasn’t,” she said.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.