Parents of Teen Swept Away Criticize Hawaii Tour Group


The parents of a New York teen missing in the waters off Hawaii criticized tour company guides who led their son on a hike that ended with waves sweeping him out to sea.

Tyler Madoff, 15, of White Plains, N.Y., was on a kayaking expedition on the west coast of the Big Island last week with a tour group. They were hiking near the Captain Cook monument at Kealakekua Bay when they stopped to rest at a tide pool, authorities said. That’s when large waves washed away Madoff and another 15-year-old boy. The other teen, from Miami, Fla., was eventually rescued and is recovering in a Honolulu hospital.

Madoff’s parents made comments over the weekend from a Big Island resort, saying Bold Earth Teen Adventures showed “poor judgment” and that no staff members stayed behind to search for their son. “You have a small and cold heart,” Michael Madoff said. “Shame on you.”

Michael Madoff told the Associated Press on Monday he and his wife, Marianne, are back home in White Plains to be with their two other children. “We just need to be with our family,” he said.

Tyler was with a group of 11 other 14- and 15-year-olds, along two contracted guides from Hawaii Pack & Paddle and two Bold Earth team leaders, said Abbott Wallis, founder of Colorado-based Bold Earth, which organizes teen adventure tours on six continents.

It’s not true that the guides didn’t stay behind to help with the search, Wallis said. “It’s just a freak accident that occurred in a split second and everyone did what they could,” he said, adding that he understands the pain Tyler’s parents are suffering.

He said the group beached its kayaks to visit a nearby waterfall Wednesday afternoon. They were sitting on rocks well above sea level and away from the edge. “Our field personnel said the waves were totally unexpected,” Wallis said. “I can’t convey my shock and sorrow.”

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Thursday but the Hawaii County Fire Department continued, with help from local residents. Fire Battalion Chief Reuben Chun said the search will end at sundown Monday if there are no signs of Tyler.

“We’re giving it our best,” Chun said. “It’s hit or miss,” he said, explaining that Tyler could have gone very far very quickly after being swept away into the vast ocean. “It’s big and deep. We recover some and lose a lot,” he said. “Surf conditions at that time were extraordinarily rough. It’s just an unfortunate case.”

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