Hawaiian man sucked down manhole and dragged 2,400 feet into ocean

A firefighter on the Hawaiian island of Maui was washed down a storm drain by powerful floodwaters and was swept thousands of feet away.

The man, whose name was not released, was sucked into a 4-foot-wide storm drain in Kihei on Friday while trying to clear it of debris. It was then dragged 800 meters through the drain where it emptied into the sea.

“There were also crews from our county public works who were able to provide quick information as to what the path for the drain was and ultimately where anything flowing through the storm drain would end up,” Mahina Martin, director of communications and public affairs for Maui County, Hawaii News Now said.

flooding in the drain
Stock image of a storm drain during a flood. A firefighter on the Hawaiian island of Maui was washed down a manhole and carried more than 2,000 feet underwater.
iStock/Getty ImagesPlus

“And that’s how our firefighters and emergency responders were able to quickly get to that location, locate and recover that firefighter, and call for immediate medical attention.”

The firefighter stopped responding when he was recovered at the other end of the drain. He eventually recovered after CPR was performed and was then taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Floods can be incredibly dangerous. It only takes 6 inches of flowing 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 shore break, say on the north shore, and the water is that deep and sweeping across the sand, it’s going to blow your mind,” National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Birchard told local news station KHON. “So fresh water flowing down a stream or down a road can do the same to you or a car.”

Flash floods are the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States, killing an average of nearly 90 people each year. In 2021 alone, 146 people died in floods across the country.

Maui has faced major flooding in recent days due to heavy rains — up to 13 inches falling on some parts of the island. Kihei, where the firefighter was washed down the drain, is particularly prone to flooding due to its low elevation and coastal Maui location.

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

“There is a risk of heavy rain tonight through Monday,” the national weather service said in a flood warning. “Some areas in Maui County are already experiencing flooding, and any additional rainfall will rapidly inundate low-lying areas.”

The firefighter remains hospitalized 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 assistance to the firefighters and family members who were there. We are focused on supporting the firefighter’s family and ask our community to join us in prayers for his recovery,” Martin said in a statement.

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