A newlywed California couple is suing Hawaiian snorkeling company Sail Maui for $5 million after being abandoned in the ocean for hours and having to swim to shore.
Honeymooners Elizabeth “Bette” Webster and Alexander Burckle were on their honeymoon and booked a snorkeling tour off the Lanai Coast.
An hour into the excursion, the couple began noticing that the large catamaran they 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 swelled between six and eight feet, the couple called for help, according to the lawsuit. They were a half mile from land.
Eventually, the catamaran sailed off to the next snorkeling site, leaving the couple behind.
Webster and Burckle had no choice but to swim to shore. They reached the beach exhausted and dehydrated.
“If it wasn’t a couple that was young and fit, they probably would have drowned,” their attorney, 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 helped return to Maui. They called Sail Maui, who hadn’t even realized the couple was missing.
‘They felt like they were going to die’
In their lawsuit against Sail Maui, the couple claims the tour’s captain acted negligently by failing to do a proper head count.
Jess Hebert, one of the other 42 snorkelers on the catamaran that day, told the Washington Post that she’d spoken to the couple about the incident. ‘They felt like there were going to die,” she said. “They were so scared.”
Although the incident happened back in 2021, Washkowitz told USA Today that the couple is still traumatized by it.
“They’re getting psychological treatment and have physical symptoms of anxiety,” he said.