In September 2021, Elizabeth Webster and Alexander Burckle finally embarked on their Hawaiian honeymoon, which they had postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The couple, from Hayward in the San Francisco Bay Area, both Stanford University graduates, booked a snorkeling expedition with Sail Maui.
She and 42 other passengers boarded a vessel and headed to the waters between the islands of Lanai and Maui for the first of two planned dives, according to court documents.
After about an hour, Webster and Burckle attempted to swim back to the boat but found they were not getting any closer.
“They started swimming harder for another 15 minutes and it seemed like the boat was going into deeper water,” the couple’s attorney, Jared Washkowitz, said in an interview with the Times. “They tried to swim on it and the water got rougher. At that point they realized that the boat was actually leaving them.”
The couple survived the ordeal with a harrowing swim to shore, according to a complaint filed in Hawaii last month. But they were badly shaken. They still suffer from PTSD symptoms, including insomnia, stress, anxiety and fear of water, Washkowitz said.
The couple are suing Sail Maui and the boat’s captain for negligence and inflicting emotional distress.
According to the complaint, the boat’s crew miscounted the number of passengers on the vessel before it departed for the second dive site, leaving Webster and Burckle behind.
Sail Maui did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A passenger reportedly told a crew member that the couple were still in the water as the boat prepared to depart. However, the person was reportedly assured that all passengers – 44 in all – had been accommodated, according to the complaint. Another crew member reportedly did two head counts, which gave 42 passengers, then used a clicker and counted 44.
The boat then pulled away, leaving the couple about half a mile offshore in deteriorating conditions as waves got between 6 and 8 feet high.
“The plaintiffs panicked and struggled to swim in the ocean conditions,” the complaint reads. “They feared they would drown.”
The couple decided to head to the Lanai shore, which the boat’s captain was told to avoid because of the shallow reefs.
Webster and Burckle finally made it to shore, where they wrote “SOS” and “Help” in the sand and tried in vain to wave down a passing boat.
Eventually, two Lanai residents found the couple, gave them water and allowed them to use a phone.
About 45 minutes after the boat left the first dive site, Webster contacted Sail Maui and said they had been abandoned.
“It was apparent that Sail Maui was unaware at the time that anyone was missing from the charter,” the complaint reads.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-03-07/california-couple-hawaii-honeymoon-abandoned-lawsuit They say they were left at sea on their Hawaiian honeymoon