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Hawaii waters are inviting but safety is paramount

    By Kara Jernigan. October 24, 2011 - 7:05 pm

The tragic drowning of HPU student Brandon Yabes, 22, at Nuuanu Reservoir on Oct. 2 should remind everyone in the HPU community that while Hawaii’s waters are beautiful, they are also dangerous.

Funeral services were held for Yabes Monday Oct. 17 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Waipahu. Yabes, a sophomore studying computer science, was from Kapolei. He had many friends at HPU, and the Kalamalama staff extends its deepest sympathies to his family.

Yabes’ facebook wall is filled with heartfelt goodbyes from friends and classmates.

Justin Rickard wrote: “It was only just last night when we’re talking story, laughing, goofing around, making work fun as usual! You will always be missed, but never forgotten.”


Lifeguards on Oahu beaches make more than 1,100 rescues annually, according to the State Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Division.

Hawaii has 60 to 70 drownings per year. Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Terry Seelig urges everyone to keep these precautions in mind.

 Anyone entering the ocean or water needs to assess:

•      Their capabilities; do I know how to swim, how to dive safely, how to return to shore, etc.

•.  The environment they’re entering; how deep is it, are there hidden dangers, are there currents, is there hostile marine life?

•      Are they comfortable operating at the level of expertise required; are they proficient; are they being challenged beyond their abilities: do they have a healthy respect for the risks involved?

 •  Anyone who goes into the water, either in the mountains, the ocean or a pool, should look for posted signs and obey them. They should ask questions of others about the dangers present before entering, and follow their advice.

• If no one is present, they should consider not entering the water at all. And they should realistically assess the benefit of engaging in a dangerous activity given the extreme consequence that might follow.

• Jumping into a body of water from a high elevation can be very dangerous, Seelig said.

• People have even suffered critical injuries or fatalities jumping into shallow water from a standing height or from a low elevation.

Here are some other safety tips from various agencies.



Muddy and clouded water conditions can create unseen dangers; never dive into murky waters.

When swimming, take caution of sharp or submerged rocks. Quickly moving streams are also likely to have loose rocks and gravel.

Tropical freshwaters are known for containing harmful bacteria. Be careful not to drink the water if you are swimming or playing in fresh water. Take precaution to treat and cover any open wounds to avoid infection.



Salt-water environments pose a different set of dangers to unsuspecting college students.

While some dangers such as strong currents or high surf are not controllable, other dangers are. By using caution and taking the time to understand the shore break many dangers are avoidable.

Do not dive into shallow wave breaks.  There may be unseen rocks or coral reef hiding in the white wash.

Remember that strong currents can carry you out to sea.

For weak swimmers, it is best to stay close to shore and near a lifeguard.

Not all beaches have lifeguards. In case of an emergency situation, keep a cell phone handy when ever possible to call for help.

Ocean safety should also be considered when on the shoreline as well; waves can quickly overrun tide pools and coastal areas. Never turn your back on the ocean. Being on guard for one of these rogue waves could prevent being swept away.

KEZIA HOLM, Student writer
KARA JERNIGAN, Associate editor