KAILUA-KONA — Families of drowning victims found offshore from a Keauhou resort describe their loved ones as an avid waterwoman and avid waterman.
Autopsy results released Monday confirm the cause of death was drowning for Eric Kim, 61, and LeeAnn Leslie, 42, both of Kona. The swimmers were found March 31 in waters near Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay.
Hawaii Police Department spokesman Alan Richmond said it appears the couple was together and entered the water from the resort shoreline.
“Uncertain if they both went in the water together, both fell in the water together or if one went swimming/fell in the water and was assisted by the other,” Richmond stated.
He added no snorkeling gear was located.
“My girl was a waterwoman,” said Leslie’s father, Richard, on Monday. “The most beautiful — she would give her heart to anybody. A real lovable girl.”
Richard Leslie added that his daughter worked in the area on one of the manta ray tour crews. Every night, she was diving in Keauhou Bay.
Leslie’s sister, Pamela, said the pair went to spend the day at the beach on the day of the incident.
“They were friends,” she said. “They were spending the day together.”
Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim said he is still in shock about his brother’s death.
“He was an avid surfer and waterman and the family will miss him deeply,” said Robert Kim said about his brother, Eric. “My only brother, so what can I say?”
The judge said his brother worked many years at Waikoloa Beach Resort and was currently working in construction.
Emergency responders from Hawaii Fire Department responded to the hotel March 31 after receiving a report of two people floating face down in the water. The call was initiated after witnesses heard a woman crying for help from “rough waters.”
Kim was found 15 feet from the coastline, while Leslie was pulled about 40 feet from shore.
Once on shore, the victims were taken in critical condition by ambulance to Kona Community Hospital, where they were pronounced dead on arrival.
Pamela Leslie said their family was told by fire crews that her sister went into the ocean to save Kim.
“It’s very heartbreaking,” Pamela Leslie said. “She was always helping somebody — to her last breath.”
Email Tiffany DeMasters at firstname.lastname@example.org.