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Rotary calls upon villages to care for Angel Rings

Past President of the Rotary Club of Pago Pago and long time resident businessman Bill Maxey contacted Samoa News over the weekend with a plea to the villages where Rotary has established their “Angel Rings” to please care for the rings, and leave them in place.

“Simply put”, he stated, “These rings save lives.”

An incident over the weekend highlighted the importance of the Angel Rings, given their strategic locations, and the often rough waves which pound our shores. Samoa News ran the story of youngsters swimming in the village of Vaitogi who ran into trouble when a young man was washed out to sea, and his brother swam out to try to save him, on Thursday.

DPS was contacted, and Captain Tulele Laolagi, head of DPS Marine Patrol said that when they arrived at Vaitogi ..."many people from the village were already trying to render assistance”, according to news media. That was due to the fact that the bell which accompanies each Angel Ring (much like a sa bell) had been rung, alerting the village that someone was in trouble.

Captain Laolagi attributed the Angel Ring to saving the brother’s life. He told local media that “someone tossed the Rotary Club's angel ring to the brother, and he was able to make it safely back to shore using the floater.” Unfortunately, hopes of finding the other swimmer may be fading, as there has been no sign of the15-year old boy, identified as Falefasa Mata’utia who was swept out in the rough seas since the search and rescue began.

Captain Laolagisaid the Marine Patrol crew began their search after 4 p.m. on Thursday and the search lasted for two hours. He said the search on Friday started at around 8 a.m. and continued until dark. Falefasa’s family members assisted the police and firemen in the search which continued during the weekend.

According to Maxey, the Rotary Club began installing the Angel Rings in the territory about five or six years ago following several stories of drownings along our rugged coast. He said the Angel Ring program was originally started in Australia, by an Australian Rotary Club who also wanted to give someone a fighting chance in the water, until help arrived.

At a cost of approximately $1800 each, Rotary has thus far installed six rings at strategic villages, and according to Maxey “We are interested in installing more, and request the villages who are interested to please contact us at 258-2468.”

He told Samoa News that the U.S. Coast Guard considers these rings extremely important to local life saving measures and water safety, and have donated many more rings to the local Rotary Club to set up more Angel Rings around the island.

There are, to date, Angel Rings in the villages of  Utulei, Matu’u, Vailoatai, Faganeanea and two rings in Vaitogi.

Unfortunately, Maxey also reported that there has been quite a bit of vandalism and theft of the rings, and the Rotary has had to replace the ring in the village of Utulei “at least four times”. He pleads with the community to “care for the Angel Rings, and leave them in place for the moment when they are needed.”

Maxey noted that there have been at least three — now four — lives saved by using the rings, which have very long ropes attached as they are thrown out toward the person needing help. The victim can grab the ring, and hold on until help arrives and rescue is possible.

“We are very upset to know that people are removing the life ring from the stations because these rings are there for one purpose — to save lives. We cannot understand why they would do this,” he said.

“Please remind people” he said again, “these rings are there to save lives, and if people remove the rings, they are useless.”