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Founder of Kaua‘i’s Rescue Tube Foundation honored by state lawmakers

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The House of Representatives today recognized Kauaʻi resident Branch Lotspeich and the Rescue Tube Foundation for their life-saving efforts in reducing the risks of drowning-related deaths on the beaches of Hawaiʻi.

Marking the first House honoree of the 2024 General Session, members of the Kauaʻi delegation delivered floor remarks and presented the recipient with a certificate and lei in recognition of their outstanding service to the community.

Lotspeich founded the foundation with the late John Gillen. Lotspeich is the current Acting Executive Director of the Rescue Tube Foundation, which has played a pivotal role in the creation of Public Access Rescue Tubes and stations.

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The stations have well over 200 recorded uses and are estimated to have prevented more than 30 drownings. The 52-inch long, bright yellow rescue flotation devices can hold up to three people for multiple hours, are user-friendly with picture descriptions, and are placed in high visibility areas to make them easier for beachgoers to locate.

Majority Leader Nadine K. Nakamura (D-15, Hā‘ena, Wainiha, Hanalei, Princeville, Kīlauea, Anahola, Keālia, Kapa‘a, portion of Wailua, Kawaihau) praised Lotspeich’s efforts, rooted in his experience as a former lifeguard, stating, “Branch Lotspeich’s vision to create rescue tubes and distribute them globally has significantly reduced drowning deaths and averted tragedies. His actions exemplify those of a hero in our community.”

Photo courtesy of rescuetubefoundation.org.

Under Lotspeich’s leadership, the first rescue tubes with the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, were installed over 14 years ago on Kauaʻi. Since then, the Rescue Tube Foundation has expanded to over 700 stations across Hawaiʻi’s beaches, the Continental U.S. mainland, and Canada.

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“Branch Lotspeich leads by example and is directly involved in the assembly and creation of the rescue tube stations at the foundation’s shop in Kīlauea,” said Rep. Luke A. Evslin (D-16, Wailua, Hanamā‘ulu, Kapaia, Līhu‘e, Puhi, portion of ‘Ōma‘o). “The rescue tubes are designed to be user-friendly and are numbered so that first responders can locate exactly where the distressed caller is (just numbered on Maui and O‘ahu, not Kaua‘i). This feature is in collaboration with Dr. Monty Downs of the Kauaʻi Water Safety Task Force & Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association.”

In January 2024, the City and County of Honolulu, Hawaiʻi Kai Lions Club, and Rotary Club of Honolulu partnered with Lotspeich to install 20 rescue tubes along 20 miles of Oʻahu’s southern and windward shores, from Kawaikui Beach Park in ‘Āina Haina to Kailua Beach Park. This expansion has already proven successful, with reports of at least one life saved when a 20-year-old man in distress at China Walls was rescued with minor injuries.

“This is one of many instances where the rescue tubes have saved endangered swimmers. We encourage more communities to be proactive and place Public Access Floatation Devices on their beaches and waterways,” said Rep. Dee Morikawa (D-17, Ni‘ihau, portion of ‘Ōma‘o, Kōloa, Po‘ipū, Lāwa‘i, Kalāheo, Ele‘ele, Hanapēpē, Kaawanui Village, Pākalā Village, Waimea, Kekaha). “If it prevents even a single drowning, the effort is undeniably worth it.”

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