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Homer man, 80, dies in Hawaii while snorkeling

Ulua Beach on Maui (Nick Hoke via Wikimedia Commons)

An 80-year-old Homer man drowned Saturday while visiting the Hawaiian island of Maui, authorities said.

The man, whose name has not been released by police, was the 10th person to die in the waters off Maui since Jan. 14

He came to Ulua Beach with a family member Saturday morning but was snorkeling alone, said Edward Taomoto, fire services chief for the Maui County Department of Fire and Public Safety. Teenagers bodyboarding in the area noticed him floating in about 50 feet of water and brought him to the beach.

Someone began CPR but couldn't resuscitate him.

Taomoto added that the ocean was very rough at the time, with shore break face heights of 6 to 7 feet.

This year's spate of drownings off the island — 10 in a three-week period — is unusual, authorities say.

Taomoto says the victims were all men 50 and older. Two lived on Maui and eight were visitors.

Just two, including the Homer man, died during rough surf conditions, he said.

Ulua Beach, tucked away within the Wailea Resort, is described as a "quarter-mile long pocket of sandy beach" by Mauiguidebook.com, which says there's "excellent beginner to immediate snorkeling around the rocky outcrop on the north end of the beach."

The man was wearing a two-piece mask and snorkel set, not the full-face mask that's been associated with some drownings in the past, Taomoto said.

The beach where the man drowned doesn't have a lifeguard.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for visitors to Hawaii — it killed 183 non-residents between 2010 and 2014, according to a study by Dan Galanis, an epidemiologist at the Hawaii Department of Health.

An average of 57 people died every year from drowning between 2005 and 2014 in Hawaii, Galanis found. Autopsy records from Honolulu, Maui and Kauai counties showed circulatory disease was present in nearly half the drownings and most victims were over 65. Autopsies may reveal other causes of death, such as heart attacks, he said.

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