HALEIWA, Hawaii (AP) — A California tourist who drowned at a Hawaii waterfall over the weekend wasn't trying to save a woman, as was previously believed, Honolulu police said.
Soon after Kris Gungon, 31, of Imperial, drowned at Waimea Falls on Sunday, fire officials said he disappeared beneath the surface after going into the water to help a woman in distress. But police said Wednesday further investigation revealed he was trying to swim out of the waterfall when he apparently drowned.
Fire officials were told Gungon was trying rescue a woman at the waterfall. "It's unfortunate that we went ahead and shared that very preliminary information," Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig said Wednesday. "Information often changes."
Seelig said the department learned a lesson from the incident and apologized for any grief the misinformation caused.
An autopsy was conducted Monday but the medical examiner's office has not yet determined cause of death.
Gungon's widow, Denise Gungon, remained on Oahu Wednesday. She said she and her husband, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, were vacationing on Oahu with their infant daughter. She was too distraught to discuss what happened.
"There is no way to describe how awesome Kris was," the family said in statement released by Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, an organization that helps tourists in these situations. "He was a great husband, a great father, he was a great son, an awesome family member. He was pretty funny. There is a hole in our hearts today and we will miss him."
The swimmer Kris Gungon was believed to have been trying to save was never in distress, the swimmer told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser via a phone interview from Oakland, Calif.
"I don't want anyone to think that he died because of me," Nicole Jackson said. She explained she was tired and held onto a rock while she waited for someone to bring her a life jacket to help her get back to shore. Gungon was already in the water before she entered the pool, she said, and he slipped under while trying to reach for a slippery rock. When he didn't surface, she told a lifeguard he might be in trouble.