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Hawaiian snorkel tour company abandoned couple at sea, lawsuit claims – BBC


A newlywed couple has filed a lawsuit against a Hawaiian tour company, alleging it abandoned them in the water on a snorkelling trip.
Elizabeth Webster and Alexander Burckle booked an excursion with Sail Maui in September 2021.
The lawsuit says the boat left the honeymooners to swim nearly half a mile back to shore in rough waters.
The tour operator has not responded to BBC News' request for comment.
The couple is suing Sail Maui for $5m (£4m) for general damages and emotional distress.
"They thought they were going to die", the couple's attorney, Jared Washkowitz, told Hawaii News Now.
According to the federal lawsuit filed last month, Ms Webster and Mr Burckle set sail from Lahaina Harbour at 10:00 local time for a snorkelling tour to Lanai, a small island near Maui, and arrived to their first stop about 40 minutes later.
The captain told passengers the boat would anchor for about an hour, the lawsuit says, but failed to give an exact time of when the boat would depart.
Ms Webster and Mr Burckle also say they were given no advice about how to return to the boat or what to do in case of an emergency.
The couple attempted to return to the boat about an hour later, but as they swam they noticed it seemed to be moving further away.
What were initially clear and calm waters soon became turbulent and choppy, according to the lawsuit, and the couple signalled they were in distress. The vessel took no notice, and the couple watched the boat sail away without them.
"They feared that drowning was imminent," according to the lawsuit reviewed by BBC News.
"Plaintiffs realised the vessel had left them and was not coming back for them. They decided that their only option for survival at that point was to return to shore."
The couple swam to Lanai island and arrived on the shore dehydrated and fatigued after more than two hours in the water. They were eventually discovered by local residents who helped them return to Maui.
The lawsuit claims the boat's crew members did three headcounts, yet were still unaware that Ms Webster and Mr Burckle were missing when the couple called the tour company after the ordeal.
Another passenger on the same tour, Jessica Hebert, described by media as being a member of the US Coast Guard, said she recalled bumping into the couple the next day.
"They were so scared," she said. She described the crew's efforts to conduct a headcount as disorganised.
"Everybody kept moving, so they easily got missed," Ms Hebert said.
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