Sayre Foundation gives Billy Pugh net to Fire Department

  • Courtesy photo From left: Fire Battalion Chief Darwin Okinaka, Robin Nakayama representing the Mrowinski family, Laura Mallery-Sayre and Hawaii County Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy with the Billy Pugh rescue net provided through the Sayre Foundation by the Mrowinski family for the county's Chopper 1.

The Daniel Sayre Memorial Foundation on Feb. 15 presented the Waiakea Fire Station almost $43,000 in equipment and training support.

The gift includes a custom-made Billy Pugh net, a transfer device for lifting victims and rescuers by helicopter to safety. It was made available through the Sayre Foundation by family and friends of Kelly Ann Mrowinski, a 28-year-old traveling nurse at Hilo Medical Center who was swept away with a friend by a flash flood while hiking Jan. 26, 2018, in the Wailuku River.


The friend was able to swim to safety but rescuers were unable to find Mrowinski during an eight-day land and aerial search. While searching, a Hawaii Fire Department Billy Pugh net broke with two rescue workers in the net. A falling rescue worker was saved by his teammate, and the net was rendered unusable.

Liz Mrowinski, Kelly Ann Mrowinski’s mother, saw the harrowing scene play out and made an effort to purchase the new net, valued at $6,000, for the continued safety of the Waiakea rescue team.

Kelly Ann Mrowinski was later recovered below Rainbow Falls after another flash flood Feb. 25, 2018.

The entire Waiakea Rescue Team and pilot Paul Darryl were nominated by the Mrowinskis for the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation Award for meritorious service above and beyond the call of duty and were honored Sept. 1 during the foundation’s 21st annual awards dinner for their outstanding efforts.


The gift also included a new fueling trailer for county helicopters. The current fuel truck outlived its lifespan and is in danger of breaking down. Also included were ropes, pulleys and webbing for extraction rescues and hand-held GPS units.

For more information about the foundation, visit

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