MAUI, HI — After a devastating two weeks in January in which three East Bay men drowned off the island of Maui, families of victims are asking authorities to investigate an “unprecedented spike” in one-piece snorkel mask deaths.
Two of the East Bay victims were wearing one-piece, full-face snorkel masks when they died. Six other snorkelers and divers also died off the Hawaiian island that month.
According to SFGate, individual Hawaiian counties are beginning to collect data on the kinds of snorkel masks worn by people who drown. Big Island Fire Chief Gerald Kosaki said counties are developing policies to track the equipment — but there is no statewide database.
Kosaki’s County of Hawaii began tracking full-face snorkel mask deaths informally last July, but other jurisdictions are setting their own start time. Kosaki said, The plan is to get some data to the Department of Health in maybe a year or two.”
That timetable may not suit the survivors of snorkelers who have drowned.
“There is interest,” but little progress, in one-piece snorkel mask investigations
Last year the survivor of another drowning victim filed a report with Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), who sent a field investigator to speak with the person, according to CPSC Director of Communications Joe Martyak.
But when the investigator learned that neither the survivor nor local officials had the original snorkel, the investigator said CPSC couldn’t pursue an investigation.
Still, Martyak told SFGATE, “We are aware of the recent news, and we’re looking to understand more about [one-piece snorkel masks].”
At the Hawaii Department of Health, representative Bridget Velasco said “There is interest in looking at the mechanics of respiration across various types of snorkels/masks.”
“However, this is in preliminary stages and there is nothing to report at this point.”
Velasco said her department has alerted the local Consumer Product Safety Commission to “monitor these products.”
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