Hawaii pilot dies after falling between ship and pilot boat

Capt. Dave Lyman, a 30-year-veteran pilot and past president of the Hawaii Pilots Association, died Jan. 29 after falling from a ladder while debarking from the cruise ship Island Princess.

Lyman had just guided the cruise ship out of Nawiliwili on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The pilot boat was operating in winds of 15-18 knots and 5-foot seas at about 1800 when Lyman fell between the ship and the pilot boat and was struck by the boat. The operator of the pilot boat pulled him from the water and transported him ashore, where he died at the Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

Lyman, 62, graduated from California Maritime Academy in 1965. As a member of the pilots’ association, he guided ships of all sizes, including Queen Elizabeth 2, which he brought into Honolulu just a few days before the accident.

Image Credit: Courtesy Hawaii Pilots Association

Capt. David Lyman was a well-known figure in Hawaii. He once served as captain aboard a Polynesian-design vessel that sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti using traditional navigation techniques.

In 1978 he earned fame when he captained Hokule’a, a Polynesian sailing vessel, to and from Tahiti, following the original course of the early settlers and using their rudimentary navigation techniques. Caught in a bad storm, Hokule’a capsized off Lanai. One crewmember paddled away on his surfboard to try and get help, but was never heard from again. Lyman and the remaining crew were rescued.

Lyman’s death comes a few weeks after the death of Columbia River bar pilot Capt. Kevin Murray, who also died after falling from a ladder while debarking from a ship in rough seas. Paul G. Kirchner, executive director of the American Pilots’ Association, said that there appeared to be no common ties between the two accidents, but that pilot ladder safety is something that pilots examine all the time.

“Being a pilot is a dangerous profession,” said Kirchner. “Twenty-four hours a day all around the world, pilots are getting on and off ships, and there is a lot of risk transferring from one moving platform to another.”

By Professional Mariner Staff