Seattle firefighter helps local crews during harrowing ordeal

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Feb 25 2013 07:57:00 PM HST

Exclusive footage of the wet Kauai weather that stranded over a dozen hikers and took the life of one.

HONOLULU -

The wind and waves were pumping as the sky showed a hint of what was to come.

"It sounded good to us, sounded like a fun hike and see the waterfall," said Joaquin Hubbard.

He and Amanda Schroeder started out on the Kalalau Trail toward Hanakapiai on Feb. 20, and were soon met with a mess of mud.

"By the third crossing it started to rain and it started to rain really hard," said Hubbard.

By the time the two were several river crossings in, it was a complete downpour, and Hubbard said the Hanakapi’ai stream was raging.

He said they reached an opening, and was quickly surrounded by other hikers, who were trying to make some kind of shelter with little luck.

Hubbard said, at that point, he knew they were all in danger.

"There were about 20 of us stranded on this little island and it just kept pouring and pouring," said Schroeder.

"By the time darkness fell, he said rescue crews had arrived, dropping lower in the valley, and then flying higher up to find more stranded hikers.

"The one guy said there three, but we know of at least five," you can hear Hubbard telling rescue crews on his video. 

Hubbard said he was crossing over rivers by way of hanging branches, to reach rescue crews who were risking their own lives.

To their surprise, he said he let them know he was passing pockets of people everywhere.

One by one, crews plucked hikers from danger and flew them to soppy, semi-safety with dozens of others on Hanakapiai Beach.

He said they spent the night in a tarp shelter.

The next morning, hikers walked out to more mud and vandalized cars at the entrance to Kalalau Trail.

They were safe, tired, and with unforgettable knowledge of what can happen in Hanakapiai Valley.

"We were thinking about the trail and how slippery and muddy it could be, but we didn't really think about how quickly the river could rise," he said.

Norka Villacorta was there with her fiancé Daniel when she was swept out to sea.

Rescue crews found her body Thursday morning.

She worked for Revere Data in New York City as a Business Development Manager.

Revere CEO Vivian Ramos told KITV they are trying to help the family cope with such a sudden loss.

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