Okinawa teen rescued amid sea-danger warnings
October 30, 2003
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Sunday’s dramatic rescue of a 15-year-old boy swept out to sea while fishing stresses the danger posed by even moderate winds, said Capt. Tom Tibbetts, the 18th Weather Flight’s commander.
There was a caution warning for seas surrounding Okinawa on Sunday as winds clocked at 24 knots per hour, or about 39 mph, whipped up the waves.
And while that may have meant “surf’s up!” for surfers along the Sunabe Sea Wall, conditions at other locations were extremely hazardous.
That’s a hard lesson learned by Yuki Kanekadan, an Okinawan middle school student who was fishing with his father early Sunday morning on a rocky outcrop near Kunigami village in northwest Okinawa. A high wave knocked him from his perch into the water, and the strong current swept him out to sea.
Besides the warning put out by the Weather Flight on American Forces Network radio and television, the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency also had issued a high-wave warning, said a spokesman for the agency’s Naha regional headquarters.
Quick thinking by Kanekadan’s father saved his life. As the boy floundered in the water, his father, Isao, 49, tossed him the large plastic bag they had used for bait, the official said. Air caught inside the bag allowed the boy to use it as a float as he drifted away.
The boy drifted about a kilometer offshore before he was rescued two hours later by a fishing boat that had joined the search. The boat had followed orange smoke from a smoke ball dropped into the water by a Maritime Safety Agency helicopter crew that spotted him floating in the water.
Tibbetts said warnings shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“While the surf may be fine at the Sunabe Sea Wall, places like Bolo Point are treacherous even on a 10-knot day,” he said.
The water caution for the entire island was in effect throughout the weekend due to the winds, which were indirectly caused by a typhoon hundreds of miles to the east of Okinawa, he said.