A newlywed couple from California is suing Hawaiian snorkel company Sail Maui for $5 million after they were left in the ocean for hours and had to swim to shore.
The honeymoon Elizabeth “Bette” Webster and Alexander Burckle were on their honeymoon and booked a snorkeling tour off the coast of Lanai.
An hour into the excursion, the couple began to notice that the large catamaran they had booked was drifting further away. Webster and Burckle swam for 30 minutes to get back to the boat, but they didn’t get very far. As the waves rose to between 6 and 8 feet high, the couple called for help, the lawsuit said. They were half a mile from land.
Finally, the catamaran sailed to the next snorkeling spot, leaving the couple behind.
Webster and Burckle had no choice but to swim to shore. Exhausted and dehydrated, they reached the beach.
“If it wasn’t for the young and fit couple, they probably would have drowned,” said their lawyer, Jared Washkowitz. told The Washington Post.
Alone on the beach with no money or cell phone, Webster wrote “help” and “SOS” in the sand. They were eventually rescued by two Lanai residents who helped them get back to Maui. They called Sail Maui, who didn’t even realize the pair were missing.
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‘They felt like they were going to die’
In their lawsuit against Sail Maui, the pair allege that the tour captain acted negligently by not properly counting.
Jess Hebert, one of the other 42 snorkelers on the catamaran that day, told the Washington Post that she spoke to the pair about the incident. “They felt like they were going to die,” she said. “They were so scared.”
Although the incident took place in 2021, Washkowitz told USA Today that the couple is still traumatized by it.
“They receive psychological treatment and have physical symptoms of anxiety,” he said.