By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher Associated Press
HONOLULU — The tour company that took a group of teenagers on a hike where a New York teen was swept out to sea didn’t have a permit to be in the tide pool area where the incident happened, Hawaii officials said Monday.
Hawaii Pack and Paddle has a permit from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to take kayaks to a specific spot in the bay and hike along a designated trail. But department spokeswoman Deborah Ward said the tide pool area falls outside the area covered by the permit.
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 was with a group of 11 other 14- and 15-year-olds, along with two contracted guides from Hawaii Pack &Paddle and two Bold Earth Teen Adventures team leaders, said Abbott Wallis, founder of Colorado-based Bold Earth, which organizes teen adventure tours on six continents.
Ward said the department would decide whether to take action against the company after investigating.
Bari Mims, Hawaii Pack and Paddle owner, said his company is permitted to operate in the area. He also said all of his guides are certified and qualified.
“They went well and above their duties as far as saving lives. That’s what it comes down to —saving people’s lives. They saved 11 out of 12 lives,” Mims said.
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.
Over the weekend, Madoff’s parents criticized the Bold Earth Teen Adventures guides. West Hawaii Today reporting the parents said the guides showed “poor judgment” and no staff members stayed behind to search for their son.
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 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 residents.
At Sunday’s press conference at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort &Spa, Michael Madoff thanked those who searched.
“Your kindness and compassion and tireless efforts will always be remembered. You are good people — the salt of the earth,” he said. “All of the locals who kayaked and walked the shoreline searching for our son, we thank you.”
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.”