Way Too Many Tourists Are Succumbing In Paradise

An Australian man drowned in Hawaii on Thursday, the state’s third tourist death in as many days, highlighting an ongoing safety issue in the islands.

On average, nearly one tourist dies a week in Hawaii, according to a special report by Honolulu Civil Beat, typically while engaged in common vacation activities such as swimming, snorkeling and hiking. Many more suffer serious injuries, including spinal cord damage.

Critics tell the state doesn’t do enough to warn its 8 million annual guests of inherent perils, especially those involving water. All three of this week’s deaths appear to be water-related.

Andrea Sperling via Getty Images

On Tuesday, a 27 -year-old visitor from Japan died while off the island of Oahu. Tatsumi Umemura became unresponsive in the water, an Emergency Medical Services spokeswoman told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The cause of death hadn’t been determined.

A Chinese tourist, 21 -year-old Mei Jun Huang, was pronounced dead Tuesday after sustaining traumata on a waterfall hike in Maui. She was reportedly found by fellow hikers submerged in the waterfall’s pond, according to Maui Now.

A 70 -year-old Australian snorkeling off Anini Beach on Kauai on Thursday was observed floating face-down 20 feet from the shoreline. The victim’s identity wasn’t released.

Hawaii’s rate of drownings per guest( 5.7 per 1 million guests) is 13 times the national median, according to Civil Beat, and 10 times the drowning rate for Hawaii residents. It dwarfs the visitor-drowning rate of other beach states, including Florida, whenever there is 0.9 drownings per 1 million guests.

While some vacationers induce bad decisions, like mixing alcohol with water athletics, others seem dangerously unaware of the risks.

“There’s a Hawaii vacation mentality that,’ I can do anything I want here because I’m in paradise, ’” Jessica Rich, president of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, told Civil Beat. “They take risks here that they would never take at home.”

The state tells it’s in the tricky position of preparing and training guests while protecting tourism, the state’s largest industry.

“The key word is balance, ” Jadie Goo, of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, told Civil Beat. “We want to develop consistent, strong messages to notify guests. But we don’t wishes to scare them away.”

With visitor arrivals hitting record numbers in Hawaii, let’s hope they figure out that balance soon.

For more on this issue, check out Honolulu Civil Beat’s special report, “Dying For Vacation.”

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