Couple Sues Hawaii Tour Company for Allegedly Leaving Them Stranded in the Ocean

After being left stranded on the Hawaiian coast, a couple from California sued a Hawaii-based tour company for $5 million.

According to FOX Business court documents, Alexander Burckle claims that Elizabeth Webster suffered severe emotional distress after being left by a charter operator, Sail Maui, while they were on their honeymoon in September 2021.

FOX reached out to representatives of Sail Maui but they have not yet responded.

Both are experienced snorkelers and booked the “Lanai Coast” snorkel tour with 42 others. The tour was to depart Lahaina Harbor, Maui at 10 am and return to Lahaina Harbor by 3 pm.

According to the lawsuit, the passengers were instructed that they would spend about an hour at the first snorkel spot before the vessel would depart for the second (unspecified), location.

According to the couple, the captain or crew failed to mention snorkeling limits, how to get back to the vessel, and the exact time to return to it.

Sail Maui’s website explains that there is no set destination for the tour, but that their “experienced crew can choose the best locations based upon conditions” and that they “visit multiple snorkel spots when time and weather permit.”

According to the lawsuit the couple was in the water for approximately an hour before conditions became “more turbulent with prevailing waves of 2-4 feet.”

They began to swim aggressively toward it, but they did not make any progress. The suit said that the vessel was now “clearly” further away than it was the previous time they checked.

The couple expressed concern that they wouldn’t be able “to return to the vessel under our own power”, and then they recalled “signaling distress” and “calling for help in the direction the vessel,” the suit continued.

According to the suit, after multiple head counts, it took off for its second location at 12:30 p.m.

The boat continued to be chased by the couple, and they found themselves in deeper water, approximately 60 to 80 feet. They also remembered that the ocean conditions had changed and they could only see Maui or Lanai at each wave’s crest. According to court documents, they didn’t see any boats from any direction and were about a half mile from shore.

The suit stated that the suit found out that the plaintiffs had panicked and were struggling to swim in ocean conditions. They feared they would drown.

According to the documents, they “decided that survival was their only option at that time” and returned to shore.

They were “extremely fearful and nervous about this decision because they were explicitly told by the safety briefing not to swim to Lanai or swim to shallow reefs in the vicinity.”

According to the suit, the couple arrived at Old Club Lanai around 1 p.m.

They left messages in the sand, “HELP” & “SOS”, but there were no boats visible from shore. According to the documents, after ten minutes, a truck passed the couple and helped them.