Witness Describes Rescue at Green Sands Beach

January 29, 2020, 7:58 AM HST (Updated January 30, 2020, 8:21 AM)
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Chopper 2 responds to rescue at Green Sands Beach on Jan. 27, 2020. (PC: Don Elwing)

What started as a normal beach cleanup day for Don Elwing, turned into something terrifying then miraculous at Green Sands Beach earlier this week.

On Jan. 27, Elwing coordinated a cleanup with Kiwami Kono to take visitors and residents out to the Ka‘ū shoreline to pick up marine debris about a mile north of Green Sands. However, the truck he was driving broke down by the famed beach and he was forced to stay behind while the volunteers moved on without him.

Elwing said it was a beautiful day.

“A little windy, but just a spectacular beautiful day,” he said. “There were a lot of people in the water.”

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At about noon, Elwing said, he was sitting at a picnic table above the cove when he saw a woman jump off a 40-foot cliff into the ocean.

“She jumps off the cliff and lands flat and gets knocked out,” Elwing explained Tuesday. “I see her in the water and she’s not moving.”

The Ocean View man says he yelled at the people the woman came with saying to “go get her, she’s unconscious.”

Ultimately, a couple of swimmers towed her to shore with four people carrying the 40-year-old woman out of the surf. Once on shore, swimmers performed CPR on the woman.

Kono and the volunteers met back at Green Sands after the beach cleanup. When they arrived, Kono saw swimmers bringing the unconscious woman to the shore. As a certified lifeguard, her training kicked in and she immediately went down to assist.

Kono helped administer CPR with the victim’s boyfriend by holding her neck straight and keeping her mouth open. Kono said she was one of many people who help the woman that afternoon.

Kono said she spoke to the woman several times. She checked to make sure the helicopter was called and continued to monitor the woman’s breathing and awareness until firefighters arrived.

“I think I did the right thing,” she said.

Elwing called 911. Firefighters arrived on scene just before 2 p.m. and Chopper 2 was dispatched to the beach.

According to the Hawai‘i County Fire Department, they found the woman sitting on Green Sands Beach unable to make her way to the top of the trail.

Firefighters later learned that the woman was pulled from the water by Good Samaritans and brought to shore. She was initially unresponsive in the water but regained consciousness before responders arrived.

Two fire rescue specialists safely removed her from the beach to the top of Green Sands Beach trailhead. They were met by Chopper 2’s flight medical crew, who after assessing her condition and treating her, transported her to Kona Community Hospital.

Elwing has since learned the woman is doing OK.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.
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