Danger in Paradise: Drownings on the Rise in Hawaii Tourist Hotspots
Hawaii may be known for its natural beauty but there also lurks a hidden danger within the scenic state.
Pop star Britney Spears learned about it the hard way last month when she nearly drowned while vacationing on the archipelago.
She told BBC Radio after the incident: "The thing I didn’t think about is when you come back you know the waves really come in hard and I got sucked under for like five minutes, literally almost drowned, and I’m like, 'where is my security they're just going to let me die here?'"
On average, one tourist a week dies in Hawaii, most of them from drowning. That's 13 times the national average — and the number of drownings is on the rise.
Sandy Beach is one of Oahu’s most popular tourist spots. Even President Obama considers it a favorite place to body surf.
But signs warn of the dangerous shore break. Another reads "no swimming." But that usually doesn't stop tourists from jumping into the water.
One lifeguard told Inside Edition: “We do lead the nation in the highest rate of broken necks and broken backs every year here at Sandy Beach.”
In late August, Sacramento man Mike Droter, broke his neck while body surfing there.
Droter is paralyzed from the neck down. Video shows him playing around in the water right before the accident.
His fiancé, Jordan Lova, told Inside Edition: “He literally got into the water for a second then we turned around. He was facedown within seconds all of the lifeguards were running straight to him.”
Now her 30-year-old finance can only whisper.
Lifeguard Kurt Lager say social media has encouraged dangerous behavior
“Social media has changed lifeguarding for us, for sure. We get people going to new places trying to copy their friends or whoever that did a photo before,” he said.
Visitors are also getting into trouble at Laie Point.
Video shows three swimmers there, slammed by pounding waves over sharp rocks. Two people made it to safety but one was swept away. She was yanked forward and back until she was finally pulled to safety.
Over at Spitting Caves, one visitor sized up his jump. Surrounding him are plaques and flowers that memorialize the many tourists who lost their lives here.
They jump off 60-foot-high cliffs into the water below but sometimes they misjudge the current or the rocks.
The tourist jumped without a hitch. However, he was caught in a fast moving current but was ultimately able to grab hold of the sharp ledge and pull himself up.