HONOLULU (CBS/AP) — The fiancée of the Marin County man who was sucked into a blowhole to his apparent death said Friday there should have been signs warning people of the dangers of the geyser-like creation along a rugged stretch of the Maui coastline.

Tika Hick told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday from San Anselmo that 44-year-old David Potts vanished into the ocean during a vacation to enjoy some time in the Maui sun before she undergoes a double mastectomy next week following a recent breast cancer diagnosis.

Eyewitness accounts from tourists who were there said Potts was dancing around inches from the hole’s opening and playing in the sprays of water shooting high into the sky when he disappeared.

READ MORE: Tourists Saw Marin County Man Fall Into Maui Blow Hole

Hick disputed that description and took local officials to task for not posting warning signs at the site. She was not at the blowhole at the time, but said her brother and sister-in-law were there.

“He slipped because it was slippery,” said a sobbing Hick.

The incident has served as another tragic reminder of the dangers lurking along undeveloped stretches of Hawaii’s shoreline.

Online travel sites warn of the rocky cliffs near the blowhole and its unpredictable eruptions. The blowhole was created by pounding surf that undercut and wore away a lava shelf. Every wave pushes water and air through the hole, creating an eruption similar to a geyser. Then as the water retreats, it creates a strong vacuum-like effect.

Maui County officials said the blowhole appears to be on private land, according to property records, but were still in the process of verifying that. The county said people were continuing to visit the area, despite being told of what happened to Potts.

Previous injuries and deaths at other tourist spots on private land have raised questions of responsibility and liability when visitors are technically trespassing to get there. Landowners are not required to post warning signs.

The only signage at the Nakalele blowhole is a quarter-mile away — a handmade sign that cautions visitors, “Blowhole, park and walk at your own risk.”

“We urge all visitors to the location to please use caution an as obvious danger exists at or near the blowhole,” the county said in a statement, also noting that it and the Maui Visitors Bureau do not promote the area as a tourist spot.

There are still questions about who owns the land at the site of the blowhole — and who could be the target of a possible lawsuit over the episode.

The county said records indicate the property is owned by Maui Land & Pineapple Company.

Kalani Ho, the company’s land and property manager, said the blowhole is on public property because it is on the shoreline. “The blowhole is below the high-water mark,” she said. “State land is below the high-water mark and obviously that’s in the water.”

The state is researching the ownership of the blowhole, said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority asked Maui Land & Pineapple for permission to post warning signs near the blowhole, which the company granted, Ho said.

She said publications that promote the blowhole as a destination present constant challenges for the company. “We don’t have the resources to fence our entire property line and by state law we have to provide public access to the shoreline.”

Maui Police Lt. Chad Viela, who is overseeing the investigation, said this is the first time he’s heard of someone falling into the hole, which has an opening that’s about 3-feet wide. It’s a popular tourist destination, he said, among visitors wanting to explore the undeveloped, sparsely populated terrain of western Maui’s northern tip.

“The ocean conditions are much more treacherous out that side of west Maui,” he said. “Visitors just don’t know the dangers.”

The last time someone died at a blowhole in Hawaii was 2002 when an 18-year-old from Sylmar (Los Angeles County) fell into the Halona blowhole on Oahu and drowned.

In the latest case, Hick said she visited the site on Maui before leaving Hawaii and paid tribute to the man she was supposed to marry.

“We put flowers in the water to say goodbye and asked Hawaii to take care of him,” she said, “and to take care of me and our son.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (29)
  1. sky says:

    I’m sorry for this woman’s loss but common sense would dictate that a blow hole is inherently dangerous and warning signs aren’t needed.
    You don’t have to get close to the blowhole to see the force of the water and know that it’s dangerous.

    1. Jadǝ Purǝlica says:

      I couldn’t agree more. But perhaps warning signs were necessary for people like them.

  2. HooDatIS? says:

    there is no bigger warning than natures warning
    he should have known better
    God bless him and his family

  3. Noelle says:

    I feel a lawsuit coming on AND she wasn’t even present at the scene!

  4. Ken says:

    What’s she going to say, that he is/was a total bafoon?
    It was a total tradgedy and my prayers go out to his family. So let’s just leave it at that.

  5. Michael V. Pelletier says:

    It’s not the Six Flags water park, it’s unbridled nature. I’ve been caught in mild surf, and felt the overwhelming raw power of the ocean tossing my body around like a rag doll, heedless of the fact that I needed air to live. I feel for the victim here – it must have been a terrible and frightening way to die. But the ocean doesn’t care.

    You wouldn’t turn your back on a snorting rhinoceros 15 feet away, so why would you turn your back on pounding ocean surf?

  6. Frank says:

    The guy was from Marin County, they want warning labels on everything, unless of course there is a government employee to hold their hand and accept responsibility for whatever happens.

    If I recall correctly hawaii has a recreational injury statute that precludes lawsuites for incidents like this. .

    1. Dixie says:

      Warning signs are useless, there’s warning labels on cigarettes and people smoke anyway.

  7. Michael V. Pelletier says:

    Here’s what’s on the tourism web page for this site:


    * Be extremely careful around the blowhole as the waves and resulting eruptions are unpredictable and are deadly dangerous.

    * Never sit on, touch or get close to the blowhole or erupting water.

    * Monitor the ocean conditions conditions continuously as rouge waves may endanger you as the trail nears the water.

    The unfortunate victim was apparently 0 for 3.

    1. theatris says:

      Rouge is what you put on your cheeks to make them rosy – blush. I believe you meant rogue.

  8. Jeanette says:

    No one wants to watch out for themselves Please grow up

  9. iamresponsible says:

    Someone falls into a blowhole, someone gets on a fishing boat that is the equivalent of a top-heavy chicken bus; we ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN ACTIONS. Don’t frolic near a blowhole; don’t get on a floating Mexican chicken bus. Stack the deck in your favor or Darwin will prevail.

  10. ed m says:

    reminds me of a tragic accident in ensenada, bc, mx about 20 yrs ago. there is a local blowhole that’s heavily visited. when a father w/ a baby in one of those baby backpacks forgot his cargo and leaned over the fence the baby fell into the blowhole to its death. the man was so distraught that he tried to commit suicide. he would have succeeded if wasn’t for some mexican soldiers that held him down.

  11. Frank says:

    Agree. The guy was showing off “frolicking” around the famous blowhole, turned his back to it, and gets (sadly and unfortunately) what he was “asking for”. It’s like the freeway warning signs, the ones about crossing the freeway is a danger – there are no signs, it’s a given.

  12. Hawaiiguy says:

    I lived in Hawaii and spent a lot of time in the water. There are plenty of warnings everywhere, and in order to ensure that no one else gets hurt Hawaii would have to close down all shoreline access which is ridiculous. People need to use their heads around the water. I was at Waimea during a big session (30’+ waves breaking on the outer reef) and watched a tourist allowing her two young sons to run down the the waters edge as the waves broke. She wasn’t even paying attention to them because of the sunset and had it not been for me they would have been swept out and probably not recovered. I told her she was an idiot and it didn’t even phase her. It’s tragic when someone loses their life and I feel for this guy and the people he left behind. Respect the ocean, don’t turn your back on it.

  13. theatris says:

    I have been to that blowhole and quite frankly I was petrified to get too close to it because it’s blatantly obvious that what comes up gets sucked down – just by observation. We climbed down that cliff many times, and were exposed to the spray, but didn’t stand close enough to be able to slip in. I’m sorry – but I think that a sign isn’t needed here and this merits no lawsuit. Nature is always triumphant in the end – and it is just plan common sense not to get too close to something unpredictable and obviously dangerous. Certainly, my sympathies are extended to the family, but I see little reason to put fences, prohibitions, and other nonsense in place to detract from such a wonderful and incredible natural phenomenon and panorama

  14. Alex says:

    Another Darwin award recipient!

  15. Donald Sandri says:

    Poor guy but what a moron. Wonder if, as his life went flashing by, he questioned his common sense? This is at least the thousandth story I have read regarding human stupidity in the last year. Frolicking around a blow hole.. Unbelievable…

  16. Sonja says:

    You are so right. The woman probably needs funds for her operation. people always looking to sue someone due to their or someone else’s folly.

    1. cheap as crabs says:

      The US has alot of programs for people with cancer. I’m surprised not alot of people mentioned their 6 year old son who now has no father in his life and his mother’s life is somewhat unstable.

  17. mechanic says:

    Remember to look at the picture very carefully. Does anyone think that the ominous figure in the atomized spray above the victim give us a clue as to the devil himself watching over this foolishness? A more frightening face, I can’t remember seeing before. Very eerie, indeed. I know I’m not the only one who sees it, ….. am I??

    1. Wm says:

      Seriously. DO shut up.

    2. Herman Munster says:

      Oh shoot I never noticed it either, wow that’s creepy.

  18. Lee Grimm says:

    Chlorine in the gene pool. I’m sorry for your loss lady but california people aren’t that bright in the first place……I unfortunately live in california and the people here are so dumb they need railings on the sidewalk to keep people from falling into traffic!!! If you’re that stupid STAY HOME!