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Snorkeling Tour Boat Allegedly Left Couple Behind in Open Ocean

They say they had to swim to the nearest shore, Lanai
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2023 2:26 AM CST
Updated Mar 11, 2023 6:00 AM CST
Couple: Snorkeling Tour Boat Left Us Behind in Open Ocean
Stock photo   (Getty Images / Damocean)

When Elizabeth Webster and Alexander Burckle set out from Maui on a snorkeling trip during their honeymoon in 2021, they were probably expecting a bit of an adventure—but not to be left behind at sea. That's what the California couple says happened, and they're now suing the tour company, Sail Maui, for $5 million over the incident, USA Today reports. They say that at the first stop, the boat planned to stay anchored for an hour while guests snorkeled. Webster and Burckle started swimming back to the boat in the allotted time frame, they say, but the water was too choppy for them to make good progress, BuzzFeed News reports. "It can be really rough water even for people that are experienced in the ocean,” their lawyer says.

The lawsuit accuses crew members of incorrectly carrying out the head counts and insisting the couple was onboard despite another passenger alerting crew to the fact that they were missing. After the boat moved on to the next location on the snorkeling tour, the couple managed to make it to the nearest shore at the island of Lanai, in distress, injured by coral from shallow reefs in the area, and dehydrated, their suit says. They used the phone of someone who came to their aid to call the tour company, which did not realize they were missing, and sent a ferry to pick them up. The Coast Guard has already investigated the incident and cited Sail Maui, which now makes "vocal contact" with each of its passengers before leaving a location. (More Maui stories.)

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