Hawai‘i Island police continue to investigate apparent drowning of Kea‘au woman

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Hawai‘i Island police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a Kea‘au woman who drowned in waters off the Puna coast.

There has recently been an influx of information being spread on various social media sites that police have closed this investigation following the forensic pathologist’s ruling that Kala‘iokealaula Ashley Nicole Reyes Kanekoa died as a result of an accidental drowning on Feb. 18.

Despite the ruling, police say the investigation remains open, and detectives are looking into what occurred leading up to the 29-year-old’s ultimate fall into the ocean, leading to her drowning.

Police have interviewed numerous witnesses and residents in the area where this incident occurred; however, continue to request that anyone who may not have been contacted by police and witnessed this incident, or may have video surveillance or information relative to this case, call Detective Paul Mangus of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at 808-961-2383 or email, or the department’s non-emergency number at 808-935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at 808-961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.


The night Kanekoa fell off shoreline cliffs in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision, the seas were rough and there was no moon.

Hawai‘i Island police responded to the cliffside at 1:59 a.m. off Beach Road and Paradise Drive after a 31-year-old Kea‘au man reported Kanekoa’s fall.

“He attempted to rescue Kanekoa by throwing out a flotation device, however was unsuccessful as she was pulled out by the ocean’s currents,” police stated.

A Hawai‘i Fire brush truck arrived on scene at 2:12 a.m. followed by Rescue 2 at 2:27 a.m.


The battalion chief was at the scene at 2:56 a.m. and the rescue boat, coming from Keaukaha, arrived at 3:52 a.m.

Hawai‘i Fire was unable to dispatch its helicopter because of the weather conditions and the darkness.

Moller said responders were unable to get to Kanekoa due to the lack of shoreline access and no safe exit for the rescuers.

“Someone could’ve jumped in but there was no safe exit,” Moller said. “No one was going to enter the water till the boat was on scene.”


Kanekoa was about 100 yards offshore when first responders arrived. The last time they saw her was at 3:38 a.m.

Moller said these types of calls are disturbing to rescuers because they feel helpless.

“It’s a gut punch,” he said. “The worst part was we knew she was in the water alive.”

At first light, Hawai‘i Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard conducted an aerial search for Kanekoa. At 7:39 a.m., Chopper I discovered her unresponsive body four miles downshore near Honolulu Landing in Pāhoa. She was transported to the Hilo Medical Center where she was pronounced dead at 10:58 a.m.

“These guys out there would’ve done anything to save her, but with the conditions, there was no way,” Moller said.

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