Friday, July 15, 2011

Death by misadventure

Nakalele Point (1st image) on the Hawaiian island of Maui is a gorgeous site and a popular tourist destination. It's known for its blowhole (2nd image), a hole in the lava shelf through which the pounding surf is forced, causing ocean water to shoot up to 100' high (watch video of the blowhole "erupting" here). Flight attendant Rocco Piganelli was vacationing with his family from La Jolla, California, this past Saturday and snapped a photo of his daughter and her friends (3rd image). They and the other tourists observed as a man frolicked dangerously close to the blowhole (see him in the background of the 3rd image). What they saw moments later horrified them all. While he had his back to the ocean, a large wave knocked the man down and pushed him into the hole. He popped up briefly with the next wave, then disappeared. Piganelli recounts, "We all stared for like 30 seconds and then I realized — he's gone. He's down there. I felt like I was going to throw up. The girl who was with him let out this horrifying scream. In my heart, I kind of knew he wasn't coming out." Piganelli readied himself to attempt resuscitation, but 44-year-old contractor David Potts of San Anselmo, California, never resurfaced. Chaos ensued, 911 was called, bystanders kept the brother of the victim's girlfriend from jumping in to find him. Others joined Piganelli as he climbed a cliff to look for Potts out in the ocean. Piganelli's traveling companion Erica Meyer recalls, "It was very, very fast, within a matter of seconds. It was just horrific. That's the only way to describe the scene." An official search with divers and helicopters was mounted, but was complicated by rough seas and poor visibility. Unsuccessful, it was called off on Monday. Despite the obvious dangers, tourists continued to gather around the blowhole area even after being told by members of the Maui Fire Department, who returned to the scene on Thursday, that someone had disappeared in that same location a few days earlier.

1 comment:

  1. Over the years I have often seen tourists do incredibly dumb things: grandparents tell their grandchild to get out of the car at Yellowstone and try to touch one of a passing herd of buffalo, footprints all around boiling geyser holes in despite warning signs, footprints at the very edge of the Grand Canyon despite signs, and many more such things. Why is it that we are so terrified of things that almost never happen (as in allowing ourselves to be groped and x-rayed prior to boarding a plane to prevent terrorist attacks) and then so many of us abandon common sense and ignore warning signs. I have done it myself. As a teen, I was one of the people clambering around the very edge of the grand canyon. I ignored bear warning signs in Yosemite and wound up with a bear foraging in my campsite as I lay in my tent with a large bag of M&M's! We fear death in very unlikely places (airplanes, random attacks by serial killers, etc.) and then act like we are invulnerable in the exact places where terrible accidents occur. Very strange.


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