Hawaii Beach Restoration Blamed for Injuries

By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER | November 26, 2014

A man injured while surfing and another who became a quadriplegic after diving from a so-called “booze cruise” filed lawsuits against the state Monday, blaming their injuries on a project to widen an eroding section of Waikiki beach.

The state was negligent in the 2012 multimillion dollar sand replenishment project that created unnaturally shallow conditions and sandbars in areas that were previously deep, the lawsuits said.

A lawsuit by Marc Tablit, 24, said he suffered a spinal cord injury after diving off the Manu Kai Catamaran, a cruise that served him alcohol.

The area where he dove from “was much shallower than it had been, something that he could not see or ascertain due to the murky unnatural quality of the ocean water there,” his lawsuit said.

A separate lawsuit claims Esmond Chung, 65, suffered permanent neck and back injuries when he fell while surfing in an area that had always been deep.

The lawsuits said the state ignored warnings that adding 24,000 cubic yards of sand and doing other work would negatively impact catamaran operations and surfing spots.

The state attorney general’s office hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuits, said spokeswoman Anne Lopez. Tablit’s lawsuit also names as a defendant Island Beach Activities Inc., which was doing business as Manu Kai Catamaran. A woman who answered a telephone number for the company declined to comment.

“It understandable that the state of Hawaii needs to make an effort to preserve Hawaii’s tourism industry with actions like beach replenishment, but at what cost to the local people?” said Gary Galiher, one of the attorneys representing the men. He said the state should have done a better job of communicating the changes in water depth to the public.

The shoreline in the area was eroding 1 to 2 feet per year, allowing water to rush into seawalls and a hotel restaurant bar during south shore swells and peak high tide.

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