Watch: Viral video shows tourist drive straight into bay at West Hawai‘i harbor
May 2, 2023, 3:17 PM HST
* Updated May 3, 8:30 AM
A video of a tourist driving slowly into waters at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor over the weekend has gone viral.
Click here to watch video.
Kona resident Christie Hutchinson posted the 4 1/2-minute video of the incident to TikTok two days ago, and as of Tuesday afternoon had been viewed nearly 130,000 times.
The footage, shared across multiple social media platforms and picked up by news networks nationwide, shows a woman behind the wheel of an SUV all smiles despite the vehicle being partially submerged in water.
The incident occurred just after 5 p.m. on Saturday. Hutchinson had just returned from a day of sailing when she and several others watched in shock as a woman drove directly into the bay. After the woman and her passenger were rescued from the sinking car, Hutchinson said she learned the pair were looking for a manta ray dive tour and the GPS they were following led them straight to the water.
The craziest part about the whole ordeal, Hutchinson said, was there seemed to be no sense of urgency from the occupants in the vehicle as water rose around them.
“I don’t think she [the driver] initially realized that she was in the harbor,” Hutchinson said. “The water didn’t actually start flowing in till a little while after.”
Hutchinson said the occupants didn’t seem to know why everyone at the harbor was looking at them and yelling at them: “I think there was genuine shock among everyone.”
As the vehicle rolled into the bay, those standing by at the harbor sprung into action. Two men jumped in the water to help the visitors escape through the open car windows. A manta ray team and other locals anchored the car with rope.
“It would’ve made the retrieval very difficult if that hadn’t happened,” Hutchinson “And, it slowed the sinking process.”
The tourists didn’t really say anything. They just listened to instructions as Hutchinson’s husband assisted the driver out of the car.
“Overall they didn’t seem panicked, a little bit shaken and possibly in shock,” she said.
The incident unfolded quickly, and by the time first responders arrived the vehicle was fully submerged.
Hawai‘i Fire Department arrived at 5:25 p.m. to find everyone out of the vehicle. There were no injuries, Assistant Chief Darwin Okinawa said.
Crews assisted the tow company with hooking up the cables to pull the vehicle out of the water. They cleared the scene about an hour later.
Hutchinson was impressed with how everyone banded together to do what needed to be done. While the situation could’ve been tragic, everything turned out fine, except for the SUV saturated with sea water.
Hutchinson said there was even a sense of comedy about the whole ordeal as the tourists didn’t really seem afraid as their vehicle sank: “It was amazing to see how well that car floats.”