The parents of a missing New York teen swept to sea last week thanked the community for its “unrelenting support during this time of sadness” and said they would not take legal action against a teen adventure travel program they entrusted with their 15-year-old son, Tyler.
During an emotional press conference Sunday morning, Michael and Marianne Madoff said the Coast Guard, Hawaii County Fire and Police Departments, Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, kayaking company Hawaii Pack and Paddle, and numerous good Samaritans have done their best in searching for Tyler.
Around 3 p.m. Wednesday a set of large waves at least 6 feet high swept Tyler, along with a boy from Florida, into the water near the Kaawaloa lighthouse, in a remote area on the northern edge of Kealakekua Bay. They were exploring and resting in a tidal pool when the waves rolled in. They were part of 12-member Bold Earth group on a kayak and hiking tour, according to rescue officials.
A Hawaii Pack and Paddle employee retrieved the Florida boy, who nearly drowned, shortly after, resuscitated him, and flagged down a boat that helped take them back to the Kealakekua pier. He was transported in critical condition to Kona Community Hospital and was later taken to the Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu for further care.
The Fire Department extended the search for Tyler beyond its three-day standard, action that requires the fire chief’s approval. Today is the final day of the search, said West Hawaii Battalion Fire Chief Reuben Chun. The only items found since he went missing Wednesday were two T-shirts and a blue rope.
“You did much more than your jobs for us. Your kindness and compassion, your tireless efforts will always be remembered,” Michael said. “All of the locals who kayaked and walked the shoreline, searching for our son, we thank you. Ola and Latisha (of Hawaii Pack and Paddle), you saved lives on Wednesday. You saved other families from the great sadness we now feel. You are heroes, and we will always remember you. Malia (of Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii), you’re an angel. You have carried us through this dark time.”
Despite five days of searching for Tyler, who has two siblings, hope for recovering his body was fading Sunday.
“Tyler, we love you from the bottom of our hearts. You’re the best of your mother, and you’re the best of me,” Michael said.
Asked if they will continue searching, Michael responded, “We have to go home to our children. The fire squadron has extended its search beyond normal protocol, which is wonderful, and we’re grateful. We went down to Napoopoo and Captain Cook. There have been a lot of locals who have continued to kayak and look for our boy.”
“Super-human kindness and efforts above and beyond that’s all I can say,” Marianne said.
The couple also made critical and caustic remarks regarding Bold Earth’s employees — who allegedly did not stay on the site to continue searching for Tyler — describing them as rude and callous.
“We, as a family, have decided not take action against the tour company that we entrusted our son with,” Michael said. “So this may be our only opportunity to share with other families who are considering such a tour experience with this company and its representatives. The people from Bold Earth have shown poor judgment and extremely poor character.”
Speaking from Colorado on Sunday, Bold Earth owner Abbott Wallis called the Madoff family’s announcement “generous.” He also said his company has 36 years of leading more than 12,000 students on summer adventure camps, and this is the first presumed fatality. Asked about standard safety procedures and protocols Bold Earth implements, Wallis said the 12-member group Tyler was in had three lifeguards and was being guided by a “competent” company, Hawaii Pack and Paddle. He also added, the people of Hawaii have been amazing in their search efforts, support and grief counseling.
“This is everyone’s worst nightmare. The family is terribly hurt, in pain and suffering. Everyone involved is in shock. There are no road maps to responding to such event,” Wallis said. “I have said to (the Madoff family) if there’s anything that I could do to undo what’s happened, I would do it. My hope now is to not increase their suffering.”