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Coast Guard identifies dive tour boat captain found dead in waters off West Hawai‘i

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A man found dead Tuesday in waters offshore of a West Hawai‘i beach park was the captain of a dive tour boat who was reported missing earlier in the day by a crew member.

The U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday identified the man as 32-year-old Ryan Ta, captain of the Moana Olapa, which is operated by dive tour boat company Big Island Divers.

The Moana Olapa, operated by Big Island dive tour boat company Big Island Divers. The boat’s captain, Ryan Ta, was found dead Tuesday in waters offshore of Mahai‘ula Beach Park in Kona. (Photo from Big Island Divers website)

Ta’s body was discovered just before noon Tuesday by Hawai‘i Fire Department’s Chopper 2, about 30 yards offshore from Mahai‘ula Beach Park.

A crew member of the 35-foot Moana Olapa called the fire department at 11:18 a.m. to report that Ta was missing from the boat.

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“A crew member on board stated last seeing the captain around 9:30 a.m. before the crew member and passengers went diving for approximately 40 minutes,” U.S. Coast Guard District 14 Public Affairs Specialist Ryan Fisher told Big Island Now on Thursday in an email. “After surfacing from the dive, the captain was not on board the vessel. The crewmember and some of the passengers immediately began searching for the captain, but were unable to locate him.”

The call from the crew member to the fire department about Ta’s disappearance came in to dispatch at 11:18 a.m.

Fisher said watchstanders with the Coast Guard’s Sector Honolulu Command Center diverted a Dolphin 65 helicopter from Air Station Barbers Point on O‘ahu and the Fast Response Cutter William Hart to search for the missing captain. They also requested additional resources from Hawai’i Fire Department, which responded with five units including Chopper 2, a rescue boat and ground units.

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At 11:59 a.m., a fire department battalion commander informed sector command that Ta’s body had been located. Chopper 2 recovered the body and transported him to the Honokōhau Small Boat Harbor, where the man was identified as the missing captain.

Kona patrol officers with the Hawai‘i Police Department at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday were assigned to assist with a coroner’s investigation at Kona Community Hospital after it was reported that an unidentified male was found unresponsive in the water between the Honokōhau harbor and Kekaha Kai State Park, according to Hawai’i Police Department public relations specialist Denise Laitinen on Wednesday.

Laitinen said the victim was transported to Kona Community Hospital from the harbor and later pronounced dead at the hospital.

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The Coast Guard did not say how many crew or passengers were aboard the vessel at the time of the incident.

The Coast Guard Investigations Department is continuing to investigate.

Big Island Now reached out to Big Island Divers for comment Thursday afternoon but had not heard anything back from the dive tour boat company by the time this article was published.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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