Utah father disappears while snorkeling in Hawaii

Aug 28, 2023, 7:32 PM | Updated: 9:39 pm

Phil Bailey at the Snowbird Resort. (Courtesy: Stan Bailey)...

Phil Bailey at the Snowbird Resort. (Courtesy: Stan Bailey)

(Courtesy: Stan Bailey)

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — A Utah family is mourning the loss of a father of three who disappeared while snorkeling in Hawaii.

Phil Bailey, 58, of Bountiful, was visiting Oahu with his two brothers when, on Tuesday, he disappeared in Shark’s Cove.

“It’s a nightmare, just been so challenging,” said Stan Bailey, who was with his brother in the water when he went missing.

Phil Bailey with his two brothers holding up the sign for the Shaka in Hawaii. (Courtesy: Stan Bailey)

Speaking exclusively to KSL TV, Stan described how he and Phil spent the afternoon enjoying the beautiful water before things took a turn.

“It was just beautiful, fantastic conditions, beautiful fish, and we were in an area that has lots of canyons underneath the water, and the water was just crystal clear,” Stan said.

He said Phil was diabetic, and while swimming back to shore, he stopped to ask how he was feeling.

“He said, ‘Yeah, I’m good,’ so we put our snorkels back in and headed back into shore,” Stan said. “I was going in, and I thought there was somebody by my side, and I thought it was Phil, and I got to the shore, or at least to where there were a bunch of rocks, and I popped up and looked over, and it wasn’t him.”

Stan said he checked with their brother Merrill who was on shore, but he hadn’t seen Phil return either, so he returned to the water and began searching while Merrill called 911. Stan fears his brother went into diabetic shock and slipped under the water.

For three days, search and rescue teams from Honolulu and the U.S. Coast Guard looked for Phil but found no sign of him.

“They had divers in the water, they had a helicopter in the air, a couple of watercraft looking for him,” Stan said.

On Friday, the Honolulu Fire Department called off the search for Bailey, and Stan returned to Utah.

“The loneliest trip I’ve taken in my life,” he said.

Phil leaves behind his wife, Linda, and three children. His oldest son is recovering from oral cancer, and his youngest son is autistic and needs extensive care.

“It takes away the sole support for their family,” Stan said. “Linda is a 24-hour caretaker for their son. It just puts them in a really bad position.”

Phil Bailey with one of his sons. (Courtesy: Stan Bailey)

A GoFundMe* has been created for the family to help with immediate and long-term financial needs.

“Phil was the glue in our family that held everybody together, kept friendships alive, and kept things going,” Stan said.

He describes his brother as a gifted IT expert, one the family would always lean on.

“He was the Wikipedia or Google of the family. If any of my kids ever said, ‘Gosh, I want to buy a new computer, what should I get,’ I would say call Uncle Phil, he knows exactly what you got to do!” he said.

Phil Bailey with his wife, Linda. (Courtesy: Stan Bailey)

Stan said his brother was also an expert at making friends and building long-lasting relationships.

“You couldn’t sit with him anywhere without making three or four friends. He would just start chatting with the guy next to him and become their best friend,” he said.

Phil was also a dedicated University of Utah fan. He met his wife at the U and was an active season ticket holder for nearly every sport.

“He bled red. He and I had season tickets to the football games, season tickets to basketball games, to the gymnastics,” Stan said. “He also went to all the hockey games, soccer games, baseball games, you name it.”

Phil Bailey at a U of U football game. (Courtesy: Stan Bailey)

As loved ones rally around the Bailey family right now, Stan hopes the community will remember the dedicated father and loving friend his brother was. He hopes they’ll celebrate a man who loved life and lived it to its fullest.

“Just the kind of person you want to have in your corner, just a fierce, fierce friend and support to anybody he could be,” he said. “A wonderful man.”

A Celebration of Life will be held on Friday at 11 a.m. at North Canyon Park in Bountiful. The Bailey family would love for those attending to wear their favorite Ute gear or anything that would make Phil smile.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Utah father disappears while snorkeling in Hawaii