East Hawaii News

Missing Boater Located — Nearly a Month Later

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A 48-year-old man who was reported missing five days after leaving Hilo for a trip in a rowboat nearly a month ago – only to be seen briefly by a ranger in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park before disappearing again – has been located in good health by police in Kona.

Richard Gomez of Hilo left that city’s shore on Friday, Sept. 20, reportedly for a trip to South Point.

When he was reported missing on Sept. 25, the Coast Guard and the Hawai`i Fire Department began an extensive search of waters off the windward side of the Big Island.

The search included the use of a HC-130 Hercules airplane based at the Coast Guard’s Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu. The 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Kittiwake was also dispatched from Lihue, Kauai to help in the search.

On Sept. 26, it was determined that four days earlier – just two days into his trip – Gomez had wrecked his vessel and lost most of his possessions while trying to reach shore in Kalapana.

After walking, injured, a number of miles across rugged lava flows, he was spotted that same day by a park ranger. After convincing Gomez that his intention to hike another dozen miles to the Halape campground was impractical, the ranger gave him first aid, water and a ride to a Hawai`i Volcanoes campground.

At that point, Gomez’s trail fizzled out again.

When the park ranger returned to work on Sept. 26 after several days off, he learned that Gomez had been considered missing, and reported his contact with him to the Coast Guard, which called off the ocean search that day.

However, police continued looking for him.

Gomez had told the ranger that he intended to go either to Punalu`u in Ka`u, or to South Kona, where he had some fishing gear stashed.

Police said Gomez showed up Wednesday at the Kailua-Kona police station after learning that his family was looking for him.


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