Big Island tour boat captain abandons passengers

Published On: Mar 07 2014 11:05:00 PM HST

A tour boat captain suspected of being drunk on the job was arrested early Thursday morning after he allegedly ditched his passengers in the water roughly 30 yards from shore in front of the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay.

"When they were done with the tour, they didn't have a boat to go back to. The guy went out and I don't know what happened, he just disappeared," said Pononui Lealao, tour boat captain for Kona Ocean Adventures.

Spencer Erwin is the captain of the Iruka Hawaii tour company and was no where to be found late Wednesday night. Luckily, more than a handful of other tour boats were in the area at the time.

"The people that was snorkeling in the water, there was no problems there because there was a whole bunch of boats out here at the site," said Lealao.

Those snorkelers were taken back to shore by an Aloha Kona Tours vessel. Captain Lealao was on his way back with the Kona Ocean Adventures group when he heard what happened.

"At that time, nobody knew where the other vessel was, where the captain was," Lealao.

After taking his crew in to Honokohau Harbor, Pono set out to find the missing boat and captain.

"This is kind of like my office out here so I know what looks normal and what looks not normal. It's the law of the sea, you got to go help. I was already in the water so I headed out," said Lealao.

Pono found Erwin within five minutes and says the 30-year-old captain was in a daze but wasn't hurt. Pono towed the Iruka Hawaii tour boat in to Honokohau Harbor.

"It wasn't really that hard to find because this area out here is like my office, I knew exactly where to go," said Lealao.

Big Island police were waiting at the dock and arrested Erwin under suspicion of DUI.

Iruka Hawaii released a statement saying the company regrets the recent incident and is suspending its tours in Kona until it can wholeheartedly know that such an occurrence will not happen again.

We reached out to Spencer Erwin on his Facebook page but our message has yet to been returned.


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