National News

Man killed on whale-watching boat in Hawaii was apparently struck by falling mast

Posted: 03/28/07 at 6:49 am EDT

HONOLULU (AP) -- A man who was killed when the mast broke on a whale-watching catamaran, sinking the boat, died of blunt trauma to the head, an autopsy found Tuesday.

Authorities were still investigating what caused the Kiele V's mast to fall Sunday on Hal Pulfer, 48, of Highland Park, Ill.

The catamaran was nearly two miles off Maui in rough, 6-foot waves at the time, the Coast Guard said. Winds were 20 to 30 mph.

Gemini tour boat captain JD DuShane, who responded to the accident, told The Honolulu Advertiser that a nurse aboard the Kiele V worked for half an hour to revive Pulfer, who was sitting on the right front part of the catamaran when he apparently was struck by the falling mast and rigging lines.

About 50 passengers were rescued from the Kiele V as it foundered and were taken to shore by other whale-watching boats, witnesses said.

"They were shook up," DuShane said. "They were very, very relieved to get on the boat. They had been through a very harrowing situation."

Two passengers, a couple from the island of Kauai, were taken to a hospital. The 46-year-old woman was in stable condition Tuesday with head trauma, an eye injury and various broken bones, while the 57-year-old man was treated for cuts and bruises and released, said Mahina Martin, Maui County information officer.

Pulfer, who was on the cruise with his wife and three children, was president of Mundelein, Ill.-based Security Locknut Inc., a specialty fastener company.

A helicopter spotted the wreckage of the Kiele V late Monday near the island of Molokai. The boat was broken up and part of the hull was on a reef, Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael DeNysc said.

The boat operated by Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa had broken its mast twice before, records show. It broke at sea in 1991 and at a dry dock in 1996, but there were no injuries. The boat was inspected by the Coast Guard in September and was certified for safe use for the next five years.

Sunday's death was the second aboard a Hawaii tour catamaran in less than four months. In December, a 13-year-old California boy was killed when a mast snapped in brisk winds, pinning him.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Latest Video