By Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs and Brandon Bosworth, Assistant Editor, Ho’okele
HONOLULU — Naval Aircrewman Mechanical 3rd Class Shannon Elizabeth Nunez from Whittier, Calif., assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 4 based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, died June 8 in a recreational activity near the Spitting Cave at Maunalua Bay, Hawaii, located approximately 10 miles east of Honolulu.
“This is a tragic loss for our Navy family,” said Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific. “This tragedy reminds each of us of the need to heighten awareness and practice greater safety on and off duty.”
“Hawaii is a beautiful and special place, but there are inherent dangers in the surf, cliffs and trails,” Williams said.
“I’ve called for service members and their families to refocus and practice ‘safety first’ — especially during the summer but throughout the year. We need to do everything we can to prevent another loss like this.”The Honolulu Fire Department responded to the scene at approximately 2 p.m. HST and recovered Nunez from the water. Nunez was subsequently pronounced dead by on-scene paramedics. The cause of the fatality is unknown at this time, and the Honolulu Police Department has the lead on the investigation in coordination with the department of the medical examiner.
Nunez reported to VP-4 last February. She was previously stationed at VP-30 in Jacksonville, Fla. from 2012 to 2014 and attended training at several commands in Pensacola, Fla. and Great Lakes, Ill.
“Petty Officer Nunez’s loss is a devastating impact to the Skinny Dragon ohana,” said Cmdr. Brett Thompson, commanding officer of VP-4. “We share deeply in her family’s grief and extend our prayers and hearts to them.”
This is the second Sailor to die in similar circumstances in just over two months. Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Gregory Spillman, 19, of Alexandria, Pa. died April 5 in an incident near the “China Wall” in Maunalua Bay after being swept out to sea by strong currents. Spillman was rescued, given life-saving aid, and rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead despite continued efforts to revive him.
In March 2005, Navy Operations Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Ryan Johnson died at Spitting Cave. Johnson, who was assigned to the USS Lake Erie (CG-70), was swimming and got caught in strong currents. He was unable to make it to shore.
Spitting Cave is located in Hawaii State Rep. Gene Ward’s district. Ward believes the signs leading to the scenic lookout should be upgraded to read “no jumping,” and he supports a fine for leaping into the ocean at Spitting Cave.
“This is one of the most beautiful and dangerous places in Hawaii,” Ward said. “I’d like to see that sign say ‘no jumping’ and the penalty is such and such … I want people to pay with their wallets, not their lives.”