For many who visit or live on the islands, the ocean is an irresistible draw. Sightseeing and whale watching by boat often top the must-do list for tourists to the Hawaiian Islands.
But open water between islands is rough. While storms at sea drive swells that fuel famous Hawaiian surf, tourist boats are hammered by the rough rise and fall of waves, even on gorgeous days. Sometimes those conditions lead to tragedy.
In March 2007, a Highland Park, Illinois man took his wife and three young children to Hawaii. After an afternoon of snorkeling, the family boarded an afternoon whale-watching trip aboard a Hyatt Regency catamaran, the Kiele V. Carrying about 50 passengers, the catamaran encountered rough water about two miles off Maui.
In choppy six-foot waves with 20 to 30 mile per hour winds, the mast of the Kiele V snapped, falling on 48-year-old Hal Pulfer, who was sitting on the front of the catamaran.
As the boat foundered and passengers were cast into the water, Mr. Pulfer died of head trauma. Two other passengers suffered blunt trauma wounds, broken bones, cuts and bruises. Nearby whale watching boats rescued passengers and crew, leaving the Kiele V to break-up and sink.
Although inspected by the Coast Guard the previous September and certified for use for five years, the mast of the Kiele V had snapped off twice before without causing injury — at sea in 1991 and in dry dock during repair in 1996. In 1991, the Coast Guard attributed the mast break in part to failure of the lower port spreader bar.
A family on vacation, a sunset cruise, rough seas and a crowded boat with a history of mast failure — potential elements of a wrongful death action against the Hyatt Regency.
Sun, sea and tragedy — if injured, always seeks reputable legal advice.
Posted in Personal Injury