HONOLULU — Hawaii officials say a tour company did not have a permit to take a group of teenagers to a tidal pool area where a teen hiker from New York was swept out to sea last week.
Hawaii Pack and Paddle has a permit from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to take kayaks to a specific spot at Kealakekua Bay and hike along a designated trail. But department spokeswoman Deborah Ward said the tide pool area falls outside the area covered by the permit.
"The permit does not authorize walking to, or landing at, any other location within" Kealakekua State Park, Ward said in an email Monday to The Associated Press.
Large waves washed away Tyler Madoff and another 15-year-old boy on Wednesday, when the group was on a kayaking expedition on the west coast of the Big Island. Authorities said they were hiking near the Captain Cook monument at the bay when they stopped to rest at a tide pool.
The other boy, from Miami, was rescued.
The tour company's owner disputed the state's comment late Monday. Bari Mims said his company is permitted to operate in the area.
Ward said the state agency would decide whether to take action against the company after investigating.
Tyler Madoff's parents have criticized the tour guides for the Colorado-based group that organized the kayaking trip, which was exploring the bay where British explorer Captain James Cook, the first European to visit Hawaii, died in a skirmish with native Hawaiians in 1779.
They said the guides from Bold Earth showed "poor judgment" and no staff members stayed behind to search for their son, West Hawaii Today reported. Bold Earth organizes teen adventure tours on six continents.
Mims disputed that criticism, saying that his guides "went well and above their duties as far as saving lives. That's what it comes down to — saving people's lives. They saved 11 out of 12 lives."
Abbott Wallis, the founder of Bold Earth, called it "a freak accident that occurred in a split second and everyone did what they could."
Madoff was with a group of 11 other 14- and 15-year-olds, along with two guides from Hawaii Pack & Paddle and two Bold Earth Teen Adventures team leaders at the time, Wallis said. He said the group beached its kayaks to visit a nearby waterfall and were sitting on rocks above sea level and away from the edge.
"Our field personnel said the waves were totally unexpected," Wallis said. "I can't convey my shock and sorrow."
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the boy on Thursday but the Hawaii County Fire Department continued, with help from residents.
"We're giving it our best," said Fire Battalion Chief Reuben Chun.
The ocean is "big and deep," he added. "We recover some and lose a lot. Surf conditions at that time were extraordinarily rough. It's just an unfortunate case."
The boy's father, Michael Madoff, thanked searchers on Sunday.
"Your kindness and compassion and tireless efforts will always be remembered. You are good people — the salt of the earth," he said. "All of the locals who kayaked and walked the shoreline searching for our son, we thank you."
Madoff said Monday that he and his wife, Marianne, have returned to their home in White Plains, N.Y., to be with their two other children.
"We just need to be with our family," he said.