Nonresidents' Drownings Due to Lack of Awareness

By Watanabe, June | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, June 4, 2012 | Go to article overview

Nonresidents' Drownings Due to Lack of Awareness


Watanabe, June, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


QUESTION:?Over the years I've read about so many people drowning while snorkeling. What are the causes, and why does that happen so often?

ANSWER: From 2006 through 2010 the state Department of Health lists drowning as one of the "Leading Causes of Fatal Injuries in Hawaii," mainly in the ocean as opposed to a pool or stream.

Among nonresidents, drowning was the No. 1 cause of fatal injuries, usually while snorkeling or swimming.

The statistics don't go into what might have led to the drownings, such as a physiological condition or strong underwater current.

However, among nonresidents it "absolutely" could be concluded that many victims simply were not aware of the dangers of the ocean, said Dan Galanis, an epidemiologist with the Health Department's Injury Prevention and Control Program.

It's an ongoing challenge for ocean safety officials to educate visitors about the risks in the ocean, he said.

"It's amazing to me that half of the drowning victims are not residents," Galanis said. Their numbers are small compared with residents, but because many are here for leisure activities, they might spend relatively more time in the ocean.

But that's "not to say that all locals have water knowledge for all the spots they go to, either," Galanis said.

Regarding actual causes, pre-existing health conditions may have been factors for both residents and nonresidents, notably older men, he said.

From 2006 through 2010, among residents, suicide was the leading cause of fatal injuries at 747 (23 percent); followed by falls, 514 (16 percent); poisoning, 432 (13 percent); motor vehicle accidents (occupant), 330 (10 percent); and drowning, 160 (5 percent).

Among nonresidents, drowning accounted for 159 deaths (46 percent), followed by motor vehicle accidents, 36 (10 percent); suicide, 29 (8 percent); falls, 27 (8 percent); and poisoning, 19 (5 percent).

Regarding suicides among residents, Galanis said health issues were cited as a reason for about half of the older victims, while among younger ones, romantic issues or breakups were involved. …

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