- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Maui county film and tourism officials are planning to produce a safety video to be played at airports and in hotel rooms throughout the island.

Firefighters, hospital workers and concerned residents for years have called for such a video to help educate tourists on ocean- and hiking-related dangers.

The video, which is being funded by the Maui Visitors Bureau, is expected to be released early next year.

“It’s got to be short, quick and to the point,” the executive director of the visitors’ bureau, Terryl Vencl, said. “Visitors just need an imprint in their minds that will allow them to take pause and caution when they see something they recognize from the video.”

A recent state health department study showed that, on average, more than a dozen people drown each year in Maui County. So far this year, there have been at least 19 reported ocean deaths, compared with 16 drownings last year and 13 in 2012, the Maui News reported (https://bit.ly/1GK1nHp ).

At least eight people have died this year at Kaanapali Beach, known for its Black Rock. Ocean safety officials and residents said the beach, which does not have a lifeguard tower, has a well-known rip current that regularly pushes swimmers out to sea.

Black Rock has become a hot spot for near-drownings and spinal cord injuries, with many incidents involving tourists who don’t consider the strength of the waves and currents, said Anna Later, trauma program manager at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Retired Maui Fire Department Capt. Dan Cretton helped raise the idea of a safety video eight years ago. He and his son, filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton, shot a video that provided tips such as wearing bright colors while hiking and never turning one’s back to the ocean, along with actual ocean-rescue footage. It played at Kahului Airport for a month and a half.

Maui County spokesman Rod Antone regretted that Cretton’s video wasn’t used by the county earlier but said it cannot be used in its current form because of outdated technology.

“We want to express our gratitude to Mr. Cretton and his son for doing all of this on their own time and free of charge,” Antone said. “It’s definitely given us something to build on and move forward with. They started the ball rolling.”

The idea of showing a visitor-safety video has been embraced by Kauai County, which began showing one at Lihue Airport last year.

Kauai, known to have the highest rate of drowning deaths among tourists in Hawaii, had 17 drownings last year, prompting local officials and residents to seek a solution. The Kapaa Rotary Club funded a 6 ½-minute water safety video to run at the airport and other locations.

Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, said social media and guidebooks were successful in portraying the island’s beauty but did not give “the full story” of the island’s dangerous conditions.

The bureau discovered that people did not understand conditions like high-surf warnings, flash floods and not standing on rocks when waves are breaking, she said, adding: “We’ve really stepped up our education a lot.”

There have been six reported drownings in Kauai so far this year. A California man was recently saved by his son, who had watched the video in the Lihue Airport baggage claim area.

“That is the be all and end all of confirmation of your efforts,” Kanoho said.

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com


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