A woman rescued Thursday from the rocky coastline north of Hilo near Onomea — four days after her kayak sank on Sunday — is fortunate she carried a whistle.
Mark Morodomi of Oakland, Calif., said he and his wife were part of a snorkeling tour and were on a boat about 200 yards offshore when they noticed a blonde Caucasian woman jumping up and down, waving to them and blowing a whistle from the shoreline late Thursday morning.
“That was very odd,” said Morodomi, an attorney for the University of California. “She kind of beckoned for us to come in and pick her up. It was very hazardous for the boat to come in close because of the rocks and the waves.”
Morodomi said he called 911 and was patched through to Fire Rescue, which sounded the alarm at 10:42 a.m. and dispatched a county helicopter and three other units, including an ambulance.
“The helicopter came very quickly, probably within 10 minutes after we called,” he said. “It circled over us, buzzed close to the cave, like a bee putting its nose into the cave, came back and hovered over the water, and just like you see on those Coast Guard rescue movies, the rescue person jumped out of the helicopter into the water and swam through the rocks to the cave. He swam her out into the ocean through the rocks, then the helicopter dropped its basket with its long lines attached to the helicopter, and they swam out to the basket.
“The basket got hoisted up, and they got into the helicopter.”
Fire Battalion Chief Michael Hayashida said the woman “didn’t have any significant injuries, just minor injuries like abrasions” and “exposure from the sun, that type of injury.”
Hayashida said the most challenging part of the rescue was “basically, just trying to locate her based on the information the 911 caller gave us.”
“It’s an isolated area,” he noted.
Fire rescuers performed initial patient assessment on the sunburned woman, and the chopper took her to the waiting ambulance, which transported her to Hilo Medical Center. It’s unknown whether she was admitted to the hospital or treated for her injuries and released.
Morodomi, his wife, fellow snorkelers and tour operators had no way of knowing the ordeal the woman had survived or just how fortunate she was the boat happened along the isolated, rocky shoreline.
“We were worried about her because there was no obvious way of getting out of there,” Morodomi said. “We couldn’t figure out whether she’d had a surfing or paddleboard accident, whether she’d gone there during low tide and got caught there during higher tide. But she was obviously stuck. She was not hurt. She was waving and blowing her whistle.
“It was good that she had her whistle on her.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.