ABOVE: Kayakers pass a buoy moored in Kealakekua Bay in this undated file photo. LEFT: The northern portion of Kealakekua Bay, specifically the area of the Kaawaloa lighthouse and tide pools, is shown in this undated file photo. State officials said Wednesday that the local tour company that led youth to Kealakekua Bay’s Kaawaloa shoreline did not have a permit to be at the tidepool and lighthouse area where large waves a week ago swept a 15-year-old New York boy into the ocean. (West Hawaii Today)
A local tour company that led youth to Kealakekua Bay’s Kaawaloa shoreline did not have a permit to be in the area where large waves a week ago swept a 15-year-old New York boy into the ocean.
Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila said Wednesday that neither Hawaii Pack and Paddle nor any other commercial kayak or tour group holds permits to be in the Kaawaloa lighthouse area. Only the public is allowed access in the area.
“The exhibits (in the permit application) tell where they can access and where they can’t,” Aila said. “It’s straightforward.”
Because the investigation into the incident remains ongoing, Aila said he was limited on the information he could provide media on the disappearance of White Plains teen Tyler Madoff, who was swept by large waves from the Kawaaloa shoreline on July 4.
A more than five-day search for Madoff was called off late Monday afternoon pending any new developments, according to the Hawaii Fire Department. The search had been extended beyond the department’s standard three-day search.
Madoff went missing about 3 p.m. July 4 when large waves swept him and another 15-year-old boy into the water near the lighthouse, which is located in a remote area on the northern edge of Kealakekua Bay. The second boy was picked up shortly after the incident by passing boats and remains at a Honolulu hospital.
Since Madoff disappeared from the commercial tour, the department has told the state’s other three commercial tour permit-holders, Adventures in Paradise, Kona Boys and Aloha Kayak Co., to stay within permitted areas.
Department spokeswoman Deborah Ward, in a Wednesday afternoon prepared statement, said the permits issued to the four state-approved commercial tour operators include specific conditions for landing and hiking at Kawaaloa within Kealakekua State Historic Park. Any enforcement action is pending the outcome of the department’s investigation.
“The permit does not authorize walking to, or landing at any other location within the park,” Ward wrote. “The lighthouse/tide pool area is outside of the authorized landing or trail area allowed by permit.”
While the incident occurred within state jurisdiction, Aila said the state’s liability is nil. He also noted the tour companies are required to provide proof of insurance to receive a permit.
According to the DLNR Parks Division special permit conditions, the “Permittee agrees to assume the risk of any personal injury, property damage, or loss of life resulting from or in any way connected with the Permittee’s activities under this permit.”
Aila also said the state is not responsible for warning oceangoers or commercial tour companies about possibly rough or dangerous ocean or shoreline conditions. With the National Weather Service providing advisories, not only to media, but also the public, individuals and tour companies “should have been aware of the warnings.”
Madoff and the other boy were part of a Bold Earth Teen Adventures tour led by two of the company’s team leaders and two Hawaii Pack and Paddle guides, according to a prepared statement from Bold Earth’s co-founder, Abbott Wallis. The company organizes teen adventure tours on six continents and has provided tours for the past 25 years in Hawaii, he said.
The company had contracted with Hawaii Pack and Paddle for about a decade prior to the July 4 incident. According to Bold Earth, Hawaii Pack and Paddle suggested viewing the site and Bold Earth team leaders, who were unfamiliar with the area, agreed. The statement did note all the guides acted “heroically” in saving the remaining youth.
Wallis said, in the prepared statement, “our group, as paying customers, had no reason to believe they were being led into an area that was anything but safe.”
Hawaii Pack and Paddle owner and lead guide Bari Mims declined comment Wednesday afternoon.