A couple sued a Hawaiian snorkeling company, alleging that they were abandoned in the ocean.
A survival expert said it’s likely a majority of people in their situation wouldn’t have survived.
She said various factors, like water condition and visibility, can impact survival in open ocean.
A couple who accused a Hawaiian snorkeling company of abandoning them in the ocean before they had to swim back to land are likely lucky to be alive, a survivalist expert told Insider.
Elizabeth Webster and Alexander Burckle, the Californian couple, are suing Sail Maui over the September 2021 incident, alleging the snorkeling company took them to a site near Lanai and stranded them in the water.
Survival expert Cat Bigney told Insider that “probably the majority of individuals in that situation wouldn’t have lived.”
Webster and Burckle’s lawsuit alleges that after snorkeling for a while near Lanai, the couple noticed the water becoming more turbulent and decided to swim back to the boat. But then, the lawsuit alleges, they noticed that the boat was already traveling toward the next snorkeling location.
After attempting to chase down the boat, Webster and Burckle eventually turned around and decided to make for the coast of Lanai, the lawsuit says. Once they finally made it to land, the couple was able to find a phone and call Sail Maui.
The couple’s lawyer, Jared A. Washkowitz, told Insider more about the couple’s situation, saying, “They spent a lot of time in the water. If they weren’t young, healthy people, who were athletic, they probably would’ve drowned.”
Bigney, who has taught at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School and consulted for Bear Grylls and National Geographic, told Insider that while the couple was young, physically fit, and not far from land, there are situations where water conditions and exposure can make it difficult to survive.
“Sometimes it’s just not possible depending on a variety of factors,” Bigney said, giving examples like the water current or undertow, animal life in the area, dehydration, and sun exposure. Bigney also said someone’s exertion of energy can determine how long they survive.
In Webster and Burckle’s situation, their lawsuit alleges they were not far from land but had been swimming for some time and also experienced increasingly rougher conditions in the water.
Washkowitz told Insider the Sail Maui crew had also warned snorkelers about treacherous reefs in shallow water off the coast of Lanai, which could have also contributed to the dangerous situation.
While the couple was lucky to survive, Bigney said there are ways someone else could increase the chances of survival in that situation.
“The best thing that someone could do in that situation would be to try to find something to assist their body, whether it’s driftwood or something they can float on or use for buoyancy,” Bigney said.
Doing so could help a swimmer conserve energy in the water, Bigney said.
The next tip is to pay attention to the surroundings, especially if there’s land nearby. In this case, Bigney said, identifying the safest way onto land is important. Swimmers should especially avoid sections of rocks or reefs and make sure to identify any undertow or currents. The latter could be dangerous, but it could also help move someone closer to land.
If land isn’t nearby, remaining calm is the best way to conserve energy.
“Stay calm so you can make good decisions because it’s a really dire situation,” Bigney said. “So thinking about not only staying calm but also thinking about, what are my priorities right now?”
As time goes on, accessing needs and potential threats can be important, she added.
And while it’s easy to get separated, Bigney said one of the biggest factors to survival is “staying close to your partner.” Whether by holding onto the same flotation device or linking together in some way, managing to navigate the situation and conditions together can be key, she said.
Read the original article on Insider