State 5/22


Tourist didn’t die saving woman at Hawaii falls

HALEIWA, Hawaii — A California tourist who drowned at a Hawaii waterfall over the weekend wasn’t trying to save a woman, as was previously believed, Honolulu police said.

Soon after Kris Gungon, 31, of Imperial, drowned at Waimea Falls on Sunday, fire officials said he disappeared beneath the surface after going into the water to help a woman in distress. But police said Wednesday further investigation revealed he was trying to swim out of the waterfall when he apparently drowned.

Fire officials were told Gungon was trying rescue a woman at the waterfall. “It’s unfortunate that we went ahead and shared that very preliminary information,” Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig said Wednesday. “Information often changes.”

Seelig said the department learned a lesson from the incident and apologized for any grief the misinformation caused.

An autopsy was conducted Monday but the medical examiner’s office has not yet determined cause of death.

Gungon’s widow, Denise Gungon, remained on Oahu Wednesday. She said she and her husband, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, were vacationing on Oahu with their infant daughter. She was too distraught to discuss what happened.

“There is no way to describe how awesome Kris was,” the family said in statement released by Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, an organization that helps tourists in these situations. “He was a great husband, a great father, he was a great son, an awesome family member. He was pretty funny. There is a hole in our hearts today and we will miss him.”

The swimmer Kris Gungon was believed to have been trying to save was never in distress, the swimmer told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser via a phone interview from Oakland, Calif.

“I don’t want anyone to think that he died because of me,” Nicole Jackson said. She explained she was tired and held onto a rock while she waited for someone to bring her a life jacket to help her get back to shore. Gungon was already in the water before she entered the pool, she said, and he slipped under while trying to reach for a slippery rock. When he didn’t surface, she told a lifeguard he might be in trouble.

3 vessels grounded by high surf off Maui

WAILUKU, Maui — Cleanup continues off the coast of Maui after three vessels were pushed ashore by high surf.

The Maui News reports that the state has hired Parker Marine to remove the debris from the vessels, which were grounded by high surf off Mala Wharf on Friday and Saturday. The work began over the weekend to remove the debris from two, 30-foot sailboats and a 38-foot trimaran.

Wreckage from the trimaran was scattered along a half-mile stretch of shoreline.

The Hawaii Islands continue to be under a high surf advisory in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday.

UH researchers studying shark behavior

HONOLULU — University of Hawaii researchers are using new technologies to study shark behavior.

Carl Meyer with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology says he’s tagged more than a thousand sharks in the last 20 years. Meyer says advances in technology, including the use of shark cams, is providing researchers with new clues about shark behavior.

KITV-TV reports that the UH team recently set out for Coconut Island to check lines that were baited with fish and found a tiger shark on the line. They used the opportunity to get into the shark’s mouth for a study on linking bacteria on teeth to where sharks swim. On a previous trip, researchers attached a small video camera to a shark along with a device to understand how they swim.

Ag Industry reps meet on Kauai

LIHUE, Kauai — The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association is holding its annual meeting on Kauai.

The Garden Island reports that this is the first time in the 42-year history of the nonprofit trade association that Kauai has been chosen for the annual meeting.

The association is comprised of five companies that represent the seed industry in Hawaii. They are Syngenta, BASF, DOW, Pioneer and Monsanto. About 150 industry executives and employees based in the Hawaii Islands will have the opportunity to discuss a range of topics, including the use of pesticides and best agricultural practices.

The meeting is being held Wednesday at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club in Lihue, and is not open to the public.

Gabbard gets 1st bill past House on vets flying

HONOLULU — Hawaii U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has gotten her first bill past the U.S. House, a measure meant to help severely injured and disabled military members and veterans get through security at airports.

The bill called the Helping Heroes Fly Act passed unanimously on Tuesday, with 413 yes votes and 20 lawmakers abstaining.

The measure directs the Transportation Security Administration to provide expedited passenger screening for injured and disabled active-duty military members and veterans.

Gabbard says the bill hopes to make airline travel a more dignified experience for military members and veterans and their families.

The bill says the screening should be as private as possible.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

The measure is the Democrat’s first to get through the House. She was elected in November.