The Puaoi ‘ohana of Molokai was met with tragedy on Christmas Day when 49-year-old Herman Puaoi drowned while surfing at Kepuhi Beach on the West End.
Surf was large and rough Dec. 25 at the break at Kaluakoi near the old golf course. Police dispatch received a call at 12:40 p.m. about an unresponsive male.
Based on witness reports received by Maui Police Department officers, Puaoi had lost his surfboard after his leash came off. He tried to swim to the beach when he was picked up by a wave that crashed him onto the rocky shore. About 30 to 60 seconds later, witnesses saw his body come above the water face down.
Witnesses quickly pulled Puaoi out of the water and began CPR until medics arrived. He was transported to Molokai General Hospital and later pronounced dead.
Over the past 15 years, Puaoi has worked with Arleone Dibben-Young, Molokai water bird researcher. “He was my right hand man,” said Dibben-Young. The two worked together on various wetland projects that included fencing, caring for sick birds and mowing lawns. “Losing him was like losing a son,” she added.
Funeral services for Herman Edward Kalani Puaoi Sr. are planned for Jan. 11 at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses at 6 p.m. A scattering of ashes will take place Jan. 12, 8 a.m., at Mo’omomi and Kepuhi Beach. A pa’ina will follow at the Puaoi homestead, Lot 99 Farrington Avenue, Ho’olehua.