Hawaiian coast guards on Sunday have suspended the two-days-search for a Swedish woman who was washed out by an unexpected swell in Oahu on Friday and who vanished after being overwhelmed by a large wave.
“This incident is tragic and unfortunate. The decision to suspend an active search is always a difficult one,” Lieutenant Commander Brock Blaisdell of the Coast Guard Sector Honolulu said. “It is a decision based on survivability factors, and time always works against us. Our deepest condolences go out to the Wänerskog family and Hanna’s friends,” Khon2 reported.
Hanna Wänerskog, a 20-year-old intern from Sweden working for a nonprofit called Surfing the Nations, was last seen alive on Friday evening at about 6:30 at the northern Oahu Waimea beach.
“She was at the beach here, close to the rocks, in about ankle-deep water when a swell came in and knocked her and her friends over. Unfortunately, she was swept out,” Sr. Chief Petty Officer Jason Bryant of the U.S. Coast Guard told the news station.
“She was last seen attempting to swim back in, but then a wave overcame her, and that was the time she was last seen,” Bryant said.
Wänerskog was attending a birthday party of one of her colleagues at the time when she and two friends entered the water.
“We likely wouldn’t have been doing this rescue if it had happened during lifeguard hours. They would have seen her and gotten her out. This is exactly why we need to extend lifeguard hours,” Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Shayne Enright said to Star-Advertiser.
Surveillance camera footage shows how her two friends, who were with her at the time, were equally washed off their feet by the big swell but managed to gain a foothold and crawl back on land. But their friend Wänerskog, who is described by her friends as “fearless,” “strong,” “determined,” and “brave,” never returned.
Emergency services were called in at 7:00 p.m. and the Coast Guard about half an hour later. An extensive search ensued that spanned across the weekend involving drones, jetski, cutters, a helicopter, but the search was considerably impeded by the heavy weather and sea conditions.
“We do have surf in the 12-15 foot Hawaiian range,” Lt. Kerry Atwood, Honolulu Ocean Safety, told Khon2. “It doesn’t look as big as it really is due to the strong north winds that are kind of beating down the surf, making a rescue effort very difficult today. We’ve also had a lot of rain, and our water clarity is very poor due to all the runoff.”
“All we can do is hope and pray. We also want the community to pray,” Logan Jacobs, a leading member of Surfing the Nations, said, according to the Star-Advertiser. “The mood is pretty somber. (The Surfing the Nations interns) are going through a lot of trauma right now, and there are grief counselors on site. She’s got family on the other side of the world who are grieving, too.”