Tourists swept into rough sea after descending Hawaii cliff for pictures, video shows

Video captured the terrifying scene this week as a young tourist couple was swept into the ocean in Hawaii — and emergency responders say it should serve as a warning to others.

“Social media paints a picture that all of these locations are fun, safe, do it for the ‘gram, get those likes,” said Shayne Enright of Honolulu Ocean Safety, according to ABC News. “But we’re hoping that this piece of social media can paint a different picture that there are hazards. There are dangers that can happen so quickly.”

That video — recorded Sunday by a bystander at Lanai Lookout on O’ahu’s east side — shows a couple tossed about in the rocky, churning waters, KITV reports. High surf had swept them away after they ignored warning signs and descended a rocky cliff to the ocean, according to ABC.

Rescuers saved the couple from the choppy seas, KITV reported, and video of the near-death experience went viral when it was posted online.

“We had a jet ski operator in the ocean already due to the high surf, they responded from around the coast, and met up with the two lifeguards,” Lt. Kawicka Eckart told ABC. “We put them on our jet ski and brought them in.”

Rafael Chavez Contreras said he recorded the unfolding nightmare as his wife called for help, adding that “rescue team arrived and were in the water with the victims in less than nine minutes,” according to AOL.

The clip posted on Instagram shows the couple struggling to stay above water as waves crash on top of them, just feet from jagged rocks. Witnesses in the background can be heard swearing and shouting at the pair. And it sounds like the woman in the water is screaming for help.

Honolulu emergency responders said the couple, 25 and 26, were rescued around 3 p.m. and were hospitalized, KHON reports.

Enright said “the initial reports said the two people were taking photos before being swept in,” according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which reported that a high surf warning was in effect that day.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.