Coast Guard identifies victim of fatal boating incident; nearly $29K raised to support victim’s family

Thesea "Reesa" Butts is seen in this undated photo included in Virginia Armstrong's GoFundMe campaign to support the Kona woman's family in the wake of a tragic boating incident that claimed the life of the 54-year-old.

U.S. Coast Guard officials Thursday identified the victim of a fatal boating incident Monday evening as a 54-year-old Kailua-Kona woman.

Theresa “Reesa” Butts, a crew member aboard the vessel 40-foot Uhane Nui o Naia, which is operated by Sunlight on Water, died in an accident reported about 6 p.m. in waters about 10 minutes out of Honokohau Small Boat Harbor in Kailua-Kona, U.S. Coast Guard officials said Thursday morning.


According to the Sunlight on Water website, the company offers dolphin watch, manta snorkel, reef snorkel, and whale watch tours in Kailua-Kona.

The official said additional information, including whether the victim was struck by the vessel, could not be released due to the ongoing investigation, which is being led by the Coast Guard in conjunction with the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation and Hawaii Police Department. The official did confirm the fatal incident occurred in the water, however.

Butts was brought to the harbor and emergency medical services personnel then transported her to Kona Community Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

A GoFundMe “In Memory of Reesa” is garnering enormous donations to the victim’s family. In less than 24 hours, the crowdfunding campaign set up by friend Virginia Armstrong had far exceeded its goal of $20,000, raising nearly $29,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

“The ocean community took a devastating loss this week in a true tragedy. Anyone that knew Reesa immediately knew how much passion she had for the ocean and marine life, especially manta rays. I can honestly say I’ve never seen someone so excited to go snorkel with the mantas each night. She found so much joy on and in the ocean,” the GoFundMe page read.

The money raised, according to the page, will go directly to Butts’ family. “We are raising money to help with service expenses. Additionally, Reesa was the generous primary caregiver for her mother and any funds raised will go to continuing that care. We appreciate your support. Be safe out there,” the page reads.

On Thursday morning, Armstrong, who had been friends with Butts for about four years, verified the GoFundMe at, and said “The overwhelming support hat the community has shown her family is beautiful.”

Anyone with information relative to the reported incident should contact the U.S. Coast Guard at (808) 763-6520 or the Hawaii Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

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