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Tourist Dies While Cliff Diving In Hawaii

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A Florida man who went missing around 03:30 am last Friday after a cliff diving incident in Hawaii has been found. Just off the southeastern coast of the island of Kauai, the body of 39-year-old Shane Uzzel was discovered by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter at around 6 am, floating just about 50 to 60 yards (45 to 54 meters) offshore, on Friday. He was pulled out of the water by a Coast Guard cutter ship shortly afterwards.

Uzzel was reported missing by his friend and travel companion in the early hours of Friday morning. He told the police that his friend was cliff diving out of Nawiliwili, just south of Lihue, Kauai island, and got swept away by the waves. His rescue efforts went in vain as he lost track of his mate in the darkness of the night.

The crew of the U.S. Coast guard cutter ship directed medical aid as they tried to resuscitate Uzzel on the way to a Coast Guard station but soon after arriving in the emergency room of the local hospital in Lihue, Uzzel was declared dead at 07:45 am.

Us coast guard cutter ship

Kauai island is no exception to cliff diving with many famous spots which are regularly used by the most avid divers, such as the Shipwreck beach, Waipo’o Falls, and Queen’s Bath, among others.

Shipwreck beach Kauai

This incident serves as a reminder to all tourists who visit or plan on visiting the islands of the dangers of the open sea, especially at night and in rougher weather.

Cliff diving is a thrilling yet a particularly dangerous endeavor, a study in 2017 found an overall cliff diving injury rate of 7.9 injuries for every 1000 hours of sport exposure. 

Cliff diving

Only last month, a 54-year-old woman lost her life in a 50 ft (15m) plunge from a steep Hawaii cliff onto a rocky shoreline in the island of Kaupo. A California man also severely injured his back last June after landing on his face and stomach following his jump in Waimea bay- a place famous for waves that can go up to 30 ft (about 10m). 

Considering the extremely perilous nature of this sport, it is required for divers to be one hundred percent physically and mentally concentrated and prepared for it.

Cliff diving head first

As noted in a study from the Red Bull cliff diving federation it is even more of a mental work than it is physical, and the selection of spots to dive from is extremely important, everything from height to water depth, wind, and wave height must be taken into consideration. And that is not the end of it, you still need spotters, rescue divers, and observers, which are usually present in regular diving spots on regular hours of the day, because a short blackout when you hit the water can happen.

Rescue boat

It can be clear now that Uzzel could have placed himself in a precarious situation by bringing only one friend and attempting dives in a coastal area at night, greatly amplifying his risks on that fateful evening.

Hawaii is famous for its many cliff diving landmarks with places like South Point, Black Rock and Twin Falls in the bucket list of many adrenaline seekers that visit this belle of the pacific. There are even mystical beliefs related to some of the landmarks, one of the most prominent ones being that spirits dive into the afterlife from Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock). 

Black rock cliff diving Maui

It can be very inviting to want to make the best out of your Hawaii vacation and feel like taking a dive on a beautiful warm Friday evening, especially after a drink or two when post alcohol confidence sets in. Travelers should always be aware that one must never take chances neither with cliff diving, nor with the open sea, and especially hyper aware and cautious when dealing with both.

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