A couple on their honeymoon in Maui, Hawaii, had to swim back to shore after they say they were “abandoned” in the ocean by a snorkel tour boat, according to a lawsuit. The couple, from Alameda County, California, took a snorkel tour with Sail Maui on Sept. 23, 2021, that was scheduled to bring snorkelers along the Lana’i Coast, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Feb. 21. The boat left Lahaina Harbor in Maui at 10 a.m., the lawsuit says. Around 40 minutes later, the group arrived at the snorkel location, where the captain gave a safety briefing.
The captain did not mention that snorkelers would have to return at a specific time, the lawsuit says. The couple got in the water at about 10:50 a.m. and swam into the current, as instructed, for around an hour, the lawsuit says. Snorkelers were returning to the boat at different times. At about 12:05 p.m., the couple was swimming back toward the boat but seemingly getting no closer, the lawsuit says. At about 12:20 p.m., the pair noticed the boat was getting farther away and began signaling distress.
One of the passengers on the boat later told the Coast Guard that she tried to tell a crew member that two people were still in the water, but the crew member assured her they had been accounted for, the lawsuit says. At about 12:30 p.m., the vessel headed to the second snorkeling site “leaving (the couple) behind in the open ocean,” the lawsuit says. Don Prestage, president of Sail Maui, told McClatchy News that the company could not comment on the pending litigation. The couple was about half a mile from shore, and the surf was about 6-8 feet, the lawsuit says.
They “were beginning to panic and were struggling to swim in the ocean conditions,” the lawsuit says. “They feared that drowning was imminent.” They decided to swim to shore, even though the captain had warned them there were shallow reefs in the area, the lawsuit says. At 12:40 p.m., they “began swimming as hard as they could” and reached shore about 20 minutes later “fatigued and dehydrated,” the lawsuit says.
Once they reached the beach, they waited about 10 minutes before a truck drove by, noticed the couple in distress and helped them, the lawsuit says. The couple returned to California on Sept. 26, 2021, the lawsuit says. A Coast Guard investigation later found that the vessel master did not ensure “a proper head count and verification of passengers” before departing the snorkeling site, the lawsuit says. The couple is seeking damages in excess of $75,000, according to the lawsuit. Alameda County is in Northern California and is home to Oakland.