The death by drowning of Jacob Pelta on January 12, 2010 falls one day short of the sixth anniversary of the drowning of Richard Young on January 13, 2004. The similarities between the two incidences are disturbing. The presence of lifeguards in Makena State Park was demonstrated to be irrelevant if not counter productive.

Circumstances surrounding the death of Jacob Pelta

Dr. George R. Harker

Late morning of January 12, 2010  Jacob Pelta and Ed Wallmark were body surfing off Little Beach at Makena State Park. Wave faces were eight to ten feet. There was a strong undertow and rip current at either end of the beach as the waves came in perpendicular to the shore.

Beach regulars noted that the two swimmers appeared to be in distress and were being pulled out by the currents.

Local regulars and competent water men Rick Van Ettan and Don Lax swam out and connected with the swimmers. Rick connected with Ed, who was further out. Don connected with Jacob.

Observers on shore viewed the situation as under control. Both swimmers were on body boards and moving about with the assistance of experienced competent swimmers. A common sight that had been played out many times in the last few days as people not familiar with the subtleties of the Little Beach currents learned about them through direct contact.

Rick advised Ed that it would be best to move out beyond the waves and wait for the  personal water craft kept at the south most lifeguard tower over at Big Beach. He expected them in minutes. ( The lifeguards are adamant in not providing any preventative action at Little Beach although it was Richard Young's death that triggered the action to bring lifeguards back to Makena State Park. Beach users are advised to call 911 when assistance is needed. Results have been similar to this one, too late to make a difference.)

Don  and Jacob had moved relatively close to shore and were in waste deep water working against a strong outgoing current. Jacob lost his footing and went face down in water. Don signaled those on shore with a wave of his arm that he needed assistance.

A number of people responded and dragged Jacob from the surf.

On shore qualified medical personnel visiting the beach as tourist began to administer CPR. Jacob was not responding.

Meanwhile off shore Rick and Ed were picked up by a  tour boat from the nearest hotel. The boat routinely brings a boatload of tourist past the beaches of Makena state park.

Rick felt he had been in the water some twenty minutes and wondered where the lifeguards and their personal water craft could be when the tour boat came by..

Calls had been placed to 911 by beach patrons.

Lifeguards appeared on the beach with a defibrillator in hand and took over the CPR.

A medical doctor on the scene felt that the lifeguards did what was appropriate for the situation. He was surprised they did not carry an endo trachea breathing tube. He also noted that he did not see the defibrillator go off.

Eventually the lifeguards arrived with the personal water craft. Jacob was placed on the sled. Initial efforts to leave resulted in the water craft dumping over in the surf. Once restored the craft was successful in the next attempt.

Comparisons to the drowning of Richard Young January 13, 2004

Events of the day Richard died are quite similar.  A skilled water man had connected with Richard in 8 to 10 foot waves. Efforts to come in were thwarted  when they were tumbled in the surf and pulled back out. Moving down the beach Richard went quiet in the water. Another water man went out and CPR was attempted in the water. A rogue wave lifted the men on the wave crest and dropped them in the surf. It took at least seven minutes for the human chain to pull Richard ashore. On the beach the flight nurse on the scene did what she could although she believed he was gone when he was brought to the beach.

The bottom line is that nothing has changed with regard to water safety at Makena State Park after expenditures in excess of a million dollars for lifeguards and equipment. Patrons to Makena State Park need to be aware of the shore break implications at Big Beach and the rip currents of Little Beach.

For a listing of the accidents and injuries at Makena State Park visit True Hazards Makena State Park

Please advise by email,drleisure1@aol.com , if you know of injuries at Makena State Park  Data sought is date, time, location, sex, age, nature of injuries

Attention virtually no information is available on injuries at Makena State Park after May 1, 2009. Three Neck/back compression a month is probably a  reasonable number to expect.

contacts: Stewards of Makena

Friends of Makena State Park

 Friends of Makena State Park was formally formed in 2003 to assist the Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources in the stewardship of  Makena State Park.

Membership is open to anyone interested in the stewardship of  the unique natural resource that constitutes Makena State Park situated on the island of Maui in the Hawai 'i Islands. The world famous nude beach known as Little Beach is contiguous to Makena State Park.

To declare your membership and to receive the electronic newsletter of Dr. Leisure's Friends of Makena State Park click this link: LittleBeachMaui-subscribe@topica.com  and send a blank email.

Consider a contribution to Doctor Leisure if you want to help defray the cost of this site and the efforts to obtain lifeguards. Enter the amount you wish to contribute. I would rather see a lot of small donation $25 or less. If you want to send more sizable please make check payable to Church and School of International Detente and submit to PO Box 1137, Kihei, HI 96753-1137 The Church is tax exempt under State and Federal law. Aloha for your support.


Dr. Leisure's Friends of Makena State Park
PO Box 1137
Kihei, HI 96753

--Dr. George R. Harker can be reached by email at drleisure1@aol.com.

Article may be reproduced with appropriate credit: drleisure.com

Copyright 2008, Dr. Leisure

©Copyright 2008 Dr. Leisure. All rights reserved.

Dr Leisure