News Column

Parents of Boy Swept to Sea Might Sue Colorado Tour Firm

July 12, 2012

Gregg K. Kakesako

The family of the New York teenager who was swept out to sea July 4 at Kealakekua Bay is contemplating a lawsuit claiming that a guide risked the boy's life, according to a New York newspaper.

Tyler Madoff's body was not found, and the Hawaii County Fire Department called off the search Tuesday.

Another 15-year-old was rescued from the roiling ocean. He was identified Wednesday by the NBC "Today" show as Matthew Alzate of Florida.

On Monday night at the Queen's Medical Center, Alzate met with his rescuer, Nolan Keola Reed, the show reported.

"I am a lot better than when I came in, because from what I heard I was almost dead," Alzate said in a video clip.

Initially, the New York couple said they had no plans to sue the Colorado-based adventure tour company, Bold Earth Teen Adventures, which used guides from a local company, Hawaii Pack and Paddle. But the father said he now is strongly considering legal action.

"Perhaps we could save some other family from this terrible sadness," Michael Madoff told The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. "We don't want the money. If we win a judgment, all the money would go to charity, or search and rescue missions."

Michael Madoff told the newspaper in an article published Wednesday that Bold Earth guide Andrew Mork took the group on a hike to the shore on July 4, despite being advised against it by Hawaii Pack and Paddle guides because of a high-surf advisory.

"Mork was advised by the local kayak operator to make camp, to not hike toward the lighthouse, that the swells or surges were too strong to be on the shoreline," Michael Madoff said. "Mork lied to me and said the kayak leader told him to continue with the hike. The final decision as to whether or not to continue to the shoreline rested with Andy Mork."

Abbott Wallis, founder and executive director of Bold Earth, said his company contracted with Hawaii Pack and Paddle to conduct the kayaking trip.

"In fact, Hawaii Pack and Paddle is a professional outfitter, paid and permitted to be in full charge of the group," Wallis said in a written statement.

"Our group, as paying customers, had no reason to believe that they were being led into an area that was potentially unsafe."

Wallis also said reports that the Bold Earth staff failed to engage in rescue activities to the best of their abilities were inaccurate.

Source: (c)2012 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Distributed by MCT Information Services

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