Fire crews rescue 121 stranded hikers on Kauai

By Kenny Choi
Published On: Apr 07 2014 06:27:32 AM HST
Updated On: Apr 08 2014 07:46:48 AM HST

More than a hundred hikers were stranded as a rapidly rising stream on Kauai made things tense for a father of two, who nearly lost both his children. KITV4's Kenny Choi has more on the amazing rescue that followed.

HANAKAPI`AI, Hawaii -

The Kaua'i Fire Department completed its rescue Monday morning of a total of 121 stranded hikers from Hanakapi'ai along the Kalalau Trail, after fast-flowing waters made the stream impassable since Sunday afternoon.

Click here to watch Kenny Choi's story.

A fire department helicopter flew 98 people out of the valley Monday morning, in addition to 23 people who were flown out Sunday evening.

No injuries were reported.

The mission began at around 4 p.m. Sunday, when firefighters were notified of several hikers stranded on the far side of the swollen stream. Rescue 3 aboard Air 1 responded and flew as many people out as they could before nightfall forced them to halt the operation until daylight.

Officials report that those rescued Sunday were located in the most dangerous area along the river's edge, near rising waters.  Several children were among those rescued Sunday, including an 18-month-old baby, and a 12-year-old boy got caught in the water and swept downstream.  The boy was able to get up onto rocks on the opposite side of the stream, and was reportedly stranded there for over four hours until rescuers short-hauled him out of the area.

All other stranded hikers were located in a safer area at Hanakapi'ai Beach.  They were instructed to stay in place together overnight until Air 1 could return Monday morning.

Two fire rescuers also stayed in the valley with the victims overnight.

The chopper continued to transport stranded hikers, four people at a time, from roughly 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

"When possible, firefighters will hike in to the valley to assist stranded hikers in crossing the river safely, so that they can hike out if they are able," said Deputy Fire Chief John Blalock.  "But in this case, hazardous conditions made it impossible to get anyone across.  To avoid serious injury or death, we urged everyone to shelter in place until they could be flown back to the trail head.  We are very pleased to report that everyone made it back safely."

In light of the dangerous conditions, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has closed the Kalalau Trail at the Ke'e Beach trailhead until further notice.

For updates on the trail closure, visit the Hawai'i State Parks website at http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/kauai/

This incident is a good reminder that it doesn’t have to be raining where you are for flash flooding to occur.  Be sure to check the weather forecast before going for a hike, www.weather.gov/hawaii.

In addition, fire officials offer the following tips:
- Never attempt to cross fast-flowing waters. Shelter in place and wait for help to arrive.
- Bring more food and water than you expect to consume on your hike, and at least enough for a full day.
- Make sure someone knows where you intend to hike, and when you expect to return.
- Ask questions of people that know the location, and learn the potential dangers and areas of caution.
- Bring first aid supplies.
- Wear proper clothing and footwear.
- Understand your limitations (age, health, etc.) and if you require medication, bring it with you.
- Always be aware of your surroundings.

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