March 25, 2007: A 48-year-old man, Hal Pulfer, was killed aboard a 55-foot whale watching catamaran in Maui, when the mast broke and struck him in the head. Two additional passengers were injured and taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center.
The Kiele V was on a whale watching cruise with 52 people aboard, two miles off Kahana Beach, when the incident occurred. At 5:09 pm the crew called for help, reporting the mast had broken and they were having trouble controlling the boat in 40-knot winds and rough seas. Nearby catamarans, the Gemini and the Teralani 3, came to the rescue, and found the Kiele V sideways and being dragged underwater by its collapsed mast and sails. They saw blood all over the right side of the boat where the deceased had been hit. The captain of the Kiele V was frantically attempting to cut through the rigging with a hacksaw, while passengers with lifejackets bunched at the driest part of the boat. The Coast Guard and a Maui Fire Department helicopter arrived shortly after to assist with evacuations.
The Kiele V, owned by Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, had experienced two broken masts before. No one was injured in the previous incidents. An investigation of the incident is on-going.
Hal Pulfer was a well-liked and successful businessman. He leaves behind a wife and three children, who were also on the cruise.