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Search for missing New Jersey swimmer off Lumaha‘i continues

LUMAHA‘I — Rescue crews continued the search Monday for the swimmer who went missing off Lumaha‘i Beach this weekend.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, there was no sign of the swimmer, identified by the Kaua‘i Police Department as 25-year-old New Jersey resident Matthew Preziose.

Rescue crews were dispatched shortly after 1 p.m. on Saturday in response to a report of two swimmers in distress about 200 yards offshore from Lumaha‘i Beach. One made it safely to shore, but Preziose remained in the water.

“There was an attempt from local surfers to assist, but, unfortunately, they weren’t able to because of the sea state that day,” said Kaua‘i U.S. Coast Guard Station Chief Petty Officer Timothy Elhajj. “By the time they got out there (Preziose) went sub-surface and appeared to be unconscious.”

Elhajj reported that there were 5-to-9-foot swells on the North Shore beach Saturday.

“The beach break was really, really rough that day,” he said, adding that Lumaha‘i is often dangerous in the wintertime with riptides and big waves.

Search efforts began shortly thereafter, and continued through the night on both Saturday and Sunday, resuming in force Monday morning.

The rescue party includes the crew of the USCG Cutter Oliver Berry, Station Kaua‘i 45-foot response boat crew, Air Station Barbers Point MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews, Kaua‘i Fire Department Air 1 helicopter, KFD Ocean Safety Bureau personal watercraft operators, KFD ground crews, Kaua‘i Police Department officers and state Department of Land and Natural Resources responders.

At 2 p.m. Monday, Lumaha‘i was under calmer ocean conditions. Rescue helicopters remained in the air and a personal watercraft team was departing from the beach, while a team of firefighters, USCG and police personnel monitored from the shore.

The search efforts are still focused on the Lumaha‘i Beach area, USCG said.

A time frame for how long the search would last had not been established as of this writing.

“It’s still an active search-and-rescue case,” said USCG Lt. Cmdr. Meagan Bowis. “So we’re going to continue searching with our assets, along with our partners.”

This year has already seen several ocean rescues, including a Feb. 24 rescue of a distressed swimmer at Larsen’s Beach (Ka‘aka‘aniu) in Moloa‘a. The swimmer, a visitor from Massachusetts, made it safely to shore.

“It’s common throughout the Hawaiian Islands,” said Bowis. “You do see a lot of beachgoers who get in trouble.”

USCG advised swimmers to have a plan in place and let people know when they are going to return.

“If you’re not sure if it’s safe, go to the lifeguard and ask them questions,” said Bowis.

Preziose is 5 feet 11 inches tall and described by the USGC as wearing dark-blue shorts, no shirt and three gold chains.

Waterway users are requested to keep lookout for signs of distress.

Anyone with information can contact the USCG Sector Honolulu Command Center at 808-842-2600 or KPD dispatch at 808-241-1711.


Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or
Source: The Garden Island

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