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Foul weather grounds HFD helicopter from Koolau rescue

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 4:05 a.m. HST, Apr 23, 2012

Bad weather forced the Honolulu Fire Department to abandon efforts Sunday to retrieve three male hikers in the Koolau mountains by helicopter, but firefighters helped them hike out on their own after dark.

Around 2:30 p.m. the helicopter plucked one member of the hiking group, a female, from a ridge, but clouds closed in, making further air attempts too dangerous.

Instead, three rescue firefighters were flown to the west side of the Koolaus, where they hiked up, met the three male hikers and escorted them down by 7:45 p.m., Capt. Terry Seelig said.

All four members of the group are in the military, stationed on Oahu and appear to be in their 20s, Seelig said.

They set off from Moanalua Valley Sunday morning in muddy, chilly conditions and got disoriented, Seelig said. So they set off in search for the Haiku stairs, sometimes called the Stairway to Heaven, in Kaneohe, which are off limits.

"They didnt' intend to go down the Windward Side," Seelig said. "They realized it was a lot harder hike than they expected." 

Firefighters spotted the group around 1 p.m. and dropped a firefighter who helped airlift the woman to Hoo­malu­hia Botanical Gardens in Kaneohe, Seelig said.

Seven people were cited Saturday for entering another off-limits area, Sacred Falls State Park, after firefighters rescued a woman who hurt her leg while hiking. The park has been closed since Mother's Day 1999, when eight people were killed and 50 others injured by a rockslide in the valley.

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