By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Fire Department rescue crews will continue searching today for the body of 29-year-old Eric Dietz, who is presumed to have drowned in rough surf and strong currents off Kehena Beach in Puna on Sunday.
Witnesses called for help Sunday after a body boarder attempted to rescue the struggling swimmer and came within reach but lost sight of him in the pounding surf. He went under about 100 yards off shore, police reported.
Rescue crews have been searching during daylight hours since Sunday, using divers, spotters in helicopters and personnel walking the shoreline near the popular black sand beach.
Dietz’s father, James Cohoes, who lives in Kona, learned of the apparent drowning Sunday night from friends who were at the scene. “The caller said people were praying for my son. She didn’t know that she was notifying me for the first time” he said.
Eric Dietz, formerly of Minneapolis, Minn., where he’d lived most of his life, had moved to Hawaii Island in March, said his uncle, David Cohoes, from Minneapolis.
“He was a really smart kid,” said Cohoes, “really talented with computers and music. Very bright. I knew him well.”
Cohoes knew him as Eric, though he was aware that friends called him “Eroz,” or “Arrows,” he said, a derivation of his first name.
Cohoes didn’t know whether Dietz was employed.
“He’d sort of been a professional student,” he said, “and did freelance computer work and different things. I don’t think he was planning to stay.”
Police said Dietz had no permanent address. He is described as Caucasian, about 5-foot-11, about 150 pounds with hazel eyes, brown hair, facial hair, and a multicolored tattoo on his upper right arm that depicts a bird, a spider and a tortoise shell.
Fire Department Battalion Commander Jerry Lum said Tuesday that the search will be called off if unsuccessful today. Standard procedure for search and rescue operations is to continue looking for victims on land for five days, in rivers for four days, and for three days in the ocean, said Assistant Chief Aaron Arbles.
Dietz’s father said the last time he saw Eric was about a month ago. “He was into fractals and math. He composed as well as played. He loved the classics and was more likely to sit down at the piano and play Beethoven than anything else.
“He fit right in in Puna. I suggested to him that he would fit right in there. It was a great place for him to make friends and connections. And he did. He loved Hawaii.
“He was my son and I loved him.”
Email Hunter Bishop at firstname.lastname@example.org.