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Firefighters sent on a daylong search for hiker in Koolaus

By Rob Shikina

LAST UPDATED: 4:46 a.m. HST, Sep 1, 2011


A sketchy report of a man lost on a trail in the Koolau Range sent firefighters on a daylong search that ended when the man walked out of the trail alone.

The man, in his late 20s, was hiking with a group on Aiea Loop Trail when he broke off to go on a different part of the hike on Tuesday, said Honolulu fire Capt. Terry Seelig.

That night, the man sent text messages to friends and family that he was spending the night at Haiku Stairs. On Wednesday morning, the man sent another text that he was OK and coming down the trail. Because the man didn't answer his calls, his relative, who didn't know were he was on the trail or if he was alone, became worried and called for help.

Firefighters launched a search at 9:30 a.m., dispatching about 12 firefighters who began a hike up the Aiea Loop Trail and Haiku Stairs in Kaneohe. Police assisted by sending up a helicopter, carrying firefighters who scanned the mountain ridges, Seelig said.

Throughout the Fire Department's broad search, the man did not answer calls from firefighters or friends, and firefighters still didn't know if he needed help or if the call was a false alarm.

As firefighters wrapped up their search about 6 p.m. because of worsening weather and encroaching darkness, the man sent a text message to his family that he exited the Haiku Stairs trail and hitch-hiked home to the Leeward side.

Seelig said the rescue effort could have been prevented if the man had kept in touch with his family so they didn't worry about him and didn't go off on a hike alone.

"Something could have happened to him, and another person in a buddy system would have been a valuable asset to have," Seelig said. "Hiking alone is a very risky proposition."

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