Hawaii Man Sucked into Storm Drain and Dragged 2,400ft into Ocean

A firefighter on the Hawaiian island of Maui was swept into a storm drain by powerful floodwaters and dragged for thousands of feet.

The man, who has not been named, was sucked into a 4-foot-wide storm drain in Kihei on Friday while attempting to clear it of debris. He was then dragged 800 yards through the drain to where it exited into the sea.

"There were crews from our county public works there as well, who were able to provide quick information on what the path was for the drain, and where eventually anything flowing through the storm drain, would end up," Mahina Martin, chief of Communications and Public Affairs for Maui County, told Hawaii News Now.

flooding in drain
Stock image of a storm drain in a flood. A firefighter on Hawaii's Maui island was swept into a storm drain and carried for over 2000 feet underwater. iStock / Getty Images Plus

"And so our fire crews and emergency personnel were able to rapidly get to that site, seek out that firefighter and to retrieve him and call for immediate medical attention."

The firefighter was unresponsive upon being recovered from the other end of the drain. He eventually recovered after CPR was performed and was then taken to the Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Floodwaters can be incredibly dangerous. It only takes 6 inches of moving water to knock you off your feet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned on its Flood Safety page.

"If you go down to the shore break, let's say on the north shore and the water is this deep and it's sweeping across the sand, it will knock you off your feet," National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Birchard told local news station KHON. "So, fresh water running through a stream or through a roadway can do the same thing to you or a car."

Flash flooding is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S., killing an average of nearly 90 people each year. In 2021 alone, 146 people were killed in floods across the country.

Maui has faced large levels of flooding over recent days, due to heavy rainfall—up to 13 inches fell on some parts of the island. Kihei, where the firefighter was swept into the drain, is particularly vulnerable to flooding due to its low-lying elevation and location at Maui's shoreline.

More rain is forecast for the coming days, with the risk of flash flooding remaining high.

"Threat for heavy rainfall tonight through Monday," the National Weather Service said in a flood alert warning. "Flooding has already affected some areas in Maui County and any additional rainfall will quickly flood low-lying areas."

The firefighter remains in hospital, and is in critical condition.

"Fire Chief Brad Ventura and Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr., immediately went to the hospital's emergency room this afternoon to offer support to firefighters and family members who were there. We are focused on supporting the firefighter's family and ask that our community join us in prayers for his recovery," Martin said in a statement.

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