Monitoring Our Channel Markers

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - June 17, 2009
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A dangerous rusted, broken channel marker

Donald Dupont considers himself an experienced waterman. For many years, he’s paddled and surfed in waters outside Hilton Hawaiian Village and is familiar with the area. He can tell you where it’s safe and where the coral reef can be unforgiving. He also can tell you about a rusted, broken-off channel marker outside the Hilton that sat idle for months.

“I knew I was in the general area where this pipe in the water was, but I didn’t know where it was because the tide was high,” recalls Dupont, who was stand-up paddling with a good friend’s son last month. “All of a sudden that pipe was on me and I fell on it and almost impaled myself. If I fell on my back, I would have been impaled.”

Dupont says as he was falling he sucked in his stomach. “Tried to make like one squid swimming backwards to soften the blow,” he says. “When I fell on the pipe, the feeling was comparable to being stabbed with a five-prong, not knowing how far it went in or anything only knowing that you were stabbed.”

Dupont paddled to shore where friends were stunned and angered.

“When Donald came inside he was all bleeding,” says longtime canoe paddler Nappy Napoleon.

“As a doctor, I know Donald was very, very lucky that he didn’t really get seriously injured,” says Dr. Peter Caldwell, a veteran canoe paddler. “It’s jagged and rusty. It’s just a nightmare to land on something like that, so he was really lucky.”

Dupont was rushed to the emergency room, where he underwent a CAT scan. Doctors wanted to see if there were internal wounds. He was lucky. He walked away with a tetanus shot and an ugly wound near his naval. His wounds have since healed, but his stomach is still bloated from the mild infection and trauma to the area.

Surfers and paddlers say the channel marker broke off in early January after years of corrosion. What was left behind was a jagged pole that sat exposed, especially during low tide. According to the state, the channel markers are owned by Hilton Hawaiian Village, and it is the hotel’s responsibility to maintain and repair them.

The channel markers are used several times a day by the Atlantis Adventure vessel to navigate in and out of the small channel outside the Hilton. Once alerted about the issue, the Hilton quickly responded.

“We got the contractors as soon as we found out about it, and we went out and changed the channel marker and installed a new channel marker,” says John Clarke, director of property operations at Hilton Hawaiian Village.

The swift repair was well-received.

“Yeah, they should definitely get it done quickly because you don’t want something like that to happen again,” says surfer Veronica Shibley. “Got to keep this place safe out here.”

“I’m glad that they finally took action, but it took someone to get hurt for them to actually take action,” adds Bryan Jeremiah.

Clarke says hotel crews will stay vigilant.

“We clean the beach every morning, so we’re going to have our guys go out there every morning and check the markers. And we’ve implemented the use of a daily log and we’ll be doing that, so if there is an issue we should be able to find out immediately.”

Hilton officials say they also will replace the remaining three markers before a problem develops.

“It was a bad situation and thankfully we were able to take care of it before anybody got seriously hurt,” says Clarke. “We will take more care monitoring the situation and assure everybody that hopefully this will never happen again.”

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