‘We miss him dearly’: Loved ones remember teen who drowned while spearfishing

Loved ones are remembering 17-year-old Yohan Choi after he drowned this week while spearfishing. (Source: KHNL)
Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 4:07 PM EDT
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HONOLULU (KHNL/Gray News) - Friends and family in Hawaii are remembering a teenager who lost his life while fishing earlier this week.

KHNL reports that 17-year-old Yohan Choi drowned Monday afternoon while spearfishing.

Choi was found unresponsive that day and pulled from the water, but it was too late.

The loved ones he leaves behind say they are devastated by his death and turning to their faith to process their grief.

“Although we might not see the purpose or God’s plan in this tragedy, we firmly believe that his death wasn’t pointless,” his sister, Esther Choi, said on behalf of the family. “He had a greater purpose, and that was to share the word of God with everyone he encountered.”

Yohan Choi’s parents, JoungHo and Michelle, are missionaries with the Youth with a Mission organization.

In 2009, the couple moved with their three children to Hawaii from Korea to work at the University of Nations.

“Seeing the impact he made during his time with us gives us comfort and strength to carry on. We find peace in knowing that Yohan is now in heaven with God looking over us as we continue our journey,” the Choi family said. “Even though we miss him dearly. His life’s mission motivates us to keep spreading God’s love and faith just like he did.”

Yohan Choi’s family said he loved the ocean. He was a skilled swimmer who would go spearfishing often.

“He would bring home fish and he worked as a tour guide,” Esther Choi said. “He knew what to expect and what was dangerous out there. He had done it countless times.”

That makes his death even more of a shock to the family and the community they serve.

“Our hearts go out to the family and their close friends at this time,” a university spokesperson said.

The 17-year-old was about to start his senior year at Kealakehe High School. His family said he was also looking forward to experiencing college.

And while his loss has left the family heartbroken, they are finding peace.

“Yohan’s spirit lives on. We feel blessed to have known him and to carry his legacy forward. We hope everyone takes this time to reach out to their loved ones and say how much they love and appreciate them because our time here is not promised,” the Choi family shared.

Family members said they are grateful for the outpouring of support they’ve already received through visits, messages and GoFundMe donations.

“We’re really grateful that Yohan was a person that showed so much love. Now, we are seeing all the love coming back,” Esther Choi said.