Real heroes: Passersby rescue mother, daughter at Pine Trees


Two Hawaii Island men rescued a 9-year-old girl from rough surf Sunday afternoon.

Keaau resident Mark Donahoo was driving away from Pine Trees in North Kona, about a quarter of a mile from where the shoreline frontage road reaches the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii access road, when he saw a group of people flagging him down.

The people wondered if Donahoo had any rope. He didn’t, he said, but he saw one person, an older woman, close to shore, and a young girl floating face down about 20 yards away. He grabbed his surfboard and began paddling to the girl.

“It took me a few tries to get my arms around her and throw her up on my board,” Donahoo said. “I hit her chest a couple of times and breathed in the mouth a couple of times.”

The girl didn’t respond to his attempts to resuscitate her, so Donahoo called for help.

That’s when Kona resident Robert Mockchew began swimming to them. Mockchew had also been driving along the beach when people flagged him down and asked for rope. He helped pull the 49-year-old woman — the irl’s mother, he said — closer to shore out of the water, then saw Donahoo yelling for assistance.

“He started pumping her chest,” Donahoo said. “We were treading water and trying to do this.”

They were not only fighting to keep the girl on the surfboard, but also battling rough surf.

After a minute, Mockchew said, the girl began to breathe, and then make noises. She didn’t respond to his questions, though. Together, Donahoo and Mockchew began heading to shore, where the only safe landing was an area of a‘a lava.

Mockchew climbed out of the water and, after several attempts, was able to hoist the girl over his shoulder.

“He had to walk about 50 yards over the worst rock and the waves were breaking over him,” Donahoo said, adding he was expecting to have to bring a dead child out of the water. “I couldn’t have (rescued her) alone. I was just the one to get to her first.”

By the time Donahoo was out of the water, police and paramedics arrived at the scene. The girl went to Kona Community Hospital, where Donahoo visited her later Sunday afternoon.

Mockchew said he didn’t get the family members’ names, but he did talk with the girl’s father. The girl and her mother were fishing when a wave pulled them out to sea, Mockchew said.

Kona Patrol Capt. Richard Sherlock said the last update his department received indicated the girl was at Kona Community Hospital in guarded condition. Sherlock said Donahoo and Mockchew were “real heroes.”

A message left with Kona Community Hospital seeking additional information was not returned Monday.