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Rescuers recover body of female hiker swept to sea on Kauai

By Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 03:37 p.m. HST, Feb 22, 2013

Kauai first responders today recovered the body of a woman who was swept up in high waters while trying to cross the swollen Hanakapiai Stream on Thursday afternoon.

Lifeguards and firefighters also helped 54 hikers to safety who spent a long, cold night in Hanakapiai Valley after water crossings became impassable.

The woman who died, believed to be in her 40s, has not yet been identified, according to a Kauai County spokesperson.

Rescue crews found the woman's body downstream at around 8:30 a.m. and airlifted her out of the valley.

The woman's fiance was able to hike out of the area Thursday. He is receiving assistance from Life's Bridges, a volunteer-based grief counseling service, according to excutive director Gina Kaulukukui.

Eyewitnesses described a harrowing scene at the popular hike as the woman tried to traverse the waterway and was then caught up by quick-moving currents.

They said they were helpless to assist her, and watched in horror when at one point she appeared to get her footing only to be swept away again.

Eric Wolfbrandt, 51, of Phoenix, said about 20 people were on a bank and saw the woman attempting to cross the stream.

He and his wife, Myrna, shed tears as they recounted what they saw.

"We couldn't do anything," Eric Wolfbrandt said, adding that the water was about 4 feet deep and the woman appeared to be about 5 feet tall.

She was crossing the stream with the help of a rope.

The 54 hikers who spent the night in the valley tried to make the best of things, the couple said. They built campfires, constructed a shelter out of tarpaulin and huddled together for warmth

Dan and Karie Costin, of San Francisco, had smiles on their faces after they drove away from the hike this morning.

They were cold, wet and hungry. And to make matters worse, their rental car had been broken into at the trailhead; a passenger window was broken and a pair of shoes taken. But, they were alive, they said.

"We didn't prepare" for a long hike, said Dan Costin, 32. "We know better."

Susan Williamson, 45, of Washington state, was with her 17-year-old son and some friends on the hike.

"Everybody huddled together" as they waited for day to break, she said.

The trouble began about 4 p.m. Thursday, when the Kauai Fire Department was dispatched to rescue 54 hikers who were stranded on the far side of the stream after they were unable to cross the rising waters. The female hiker attempted to cross before rescuers arrived when she was swept away.

Rescuers attempted to assist the remaining group of hikers Thursday night, but strong winds and the stream's high water level prevented their exit, forcing the group and two rescue specialists to spend the night in the valley.

All of the hikers were able to cross the stream to safety this morning when the water receded, said Kauai Fire Battalion Chief Jason Ornellas.

Nine hikers were flown out of the area via helicopter and the rest of the group opted to hike out on their own.

There were no reported injuries among the 54 hikers.

This is the seventh drowning reported on Kauai this year.

Ornellas said the conditions in the area — bouts of heavy rain and high winds — made the rescue Thursday morning difficult.

About 14 first responders participated in the rescue efforts.

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olos73 wrote:
My ALOHA to her ohana. This tragedy could have been avoided. Who took 50 people to this place in such bad weather?
on February 22,2013 | 09:39AM
Fred01 wrote:
None of your business.
on February 22,2013 | 09:43AM
Psyche wrote:
It could indeed be of other's concern if it was part of a commercial activity. RIP and condolences to the victim & family.
on February 22,2013 | 10:14AM
olos73 wrote:
Must've been one of @Fred01's hiking buddies that would take people on these dangerous hikes. They're the ones that usually gets lost on Oahu's trails. Just wait until there's another report of a lost hiker and read what @Fred01 has to say.
on February 22,2013 | 10:36AM
Fred01 wrote:
At least I'm not lazy and fat like olos73!
on February 22,2013 | 01:29PM
olos73 wrote:
@Fred01, how you know I'm lazy and fat? Did you look in the mirror? I think you saw yourself. Why is it when lost hikers have to be rescued on hikes, the people reading the story make comments like, "They should be billed for the rescue" you reply to their post saying, "I'll send you the bill." You keep implying that taxpayers should pay for rescues, even if the hikers are at fault. What's the matter? You mad because nobody rescued you when you got lost on your hike around Kapiolani Park and couldn't find your car when you couldn't tell where mauka and makai is? For your info, I'm not fat, lazy maybe, but not fat. So @Fred, GO TAKE A HIKE.
on February 22,2013 | 05:50PM
olos73 wrote:
No @Fred01, you're DUMB and UGLY.................................
on February 22,2013 | 06:35PM
Fred01 wrote:
I might be dumb, but not ugly! Ouch!
on February 22,2013 | 06:49PM
allie wrote:
agree..the hiking company should have exercised better judgment
on February 22,2013 | 11:09AM
Fred01 wrote:
What hiking company? You don't know what you're talking about.
on February 22,2013 | 11:19AM
phyllum69 wrote:
What hiking company are you talking about? There was no mention of a hiking company in the article.
on February 22,2013 | 11:36AM
allie wrote:
radio report
on February 22,2013 | 03:00PM
false wrote:
Friends visiting should reconsider the worth of their hosts. Kauai is the wettest place on the planet. Hawaii mountains are known for being treacherous in wet weather, especially for flooding. Why won't people use common sense. What is this going to cost taxpayers? Signs are everywhere. The clouds above, the weather report. If only you would listen. Sad of such a beautiful valley.
on February 22,2013 | 05:29PM
Snator wrote:
A LOT of people use that trail daily, visitors and residents alike. The article never says it was one group. It’s a very good chance that there were just that many people on trail, individuals, couples and groups who happened to get stranded.
on February 22,2013 | 11:07AM
Fred01 wrote:
There are usually around 50 people at that beach.
on February 22,2013 | 11:10AM
copperwire9 wrote:
Hundreds of people hike NaPali into Hanakapiai Valley every day. You cross a stream to get to the beach. It is normally easy to cross. I've done it thousands of times. But when a flash flood comes, nobody goes anywhere, because it's terribly dangerous - the waters rise; they're swift, deep, and uncompromising. That's what cost this poor woman her life.
on February 22,2013 | 01:42PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
You know there are a lot of visitors and locals who hike the area. The trail is identified in visitor guidebooks and on the internet so it would seem that having 50 or more people of that trail at any one time is not unusual. That being said, the loss of life is truly sad, condolences to her family.
on February 22,2013 | 02:03PM
cojef wrote:
Hiking in remote and unfamiliar places has its perils. Attempting to cross swollen rivers are not for amateurs, even experts do it with assists of some kind. Sad for the husband who has to return home alone.
on February 22,2013 | 09:44AM
bleedgreen wrote:
Why was she trying to cross alone?
on February 22,2013 | 11:00AM
false wrote:
Her husband was ahead of her.
on February 22,2013 | 05:30PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
Unfortunately a lot of tourists leave caution and common sense at home when they vacation. This tragedy was preventable if the woman had just waited for the fire department to arrive. Seems like these events keep happening much too often.
on February 22,2013 | 10:27AM
Eradication wrote:
Aloha to the Ohana who lost their loved one. May they find peace somehow. Surely it will take some time to heal from this. A group of 55 is a very large contingent of people to hike into the forest. Unfortunately, misfortune sometime happens and it is indeed sad when it does. I also send my thoughts to the staff who took them out hoping that they too can heal from this as well.
on February 22,2013 | 10:30AM
Fred01 wrote:
Way more than 50 people hike to that beach every day.
on February 22,2013 | 11:10AM
phyllum69 wrote:
Kind and caring words. Thank you.
on February 22,2013 | 11:38AM
WKAMA wrote:
Why don't people read the weather reports before hiking into the forest. Bad rainy weather is bad for hiking in Hawaii's mountains. Same here in LA people go hiking in the mountains when the the forecast is heavy rains in the low regions and snow in the mountains. Then they wonder why they get stuck in the mountains and have to call the rescue squad. By the way didn't someone get stuck in the bamboo forest in Maui the other day because of bad weather?
on February 22,2013 | 10:54AM
allie wrote:
the car was broken into...so typical of a wretched state that preys on tourists.
on February 22,2013 | 11:11AM
Carang_da_buggahz wrote:
Then why would you want to continue to live in this "wretched state"? Feel free to return to North Dakota if things are so bad here, allie. I used to wonder why people here were so down on you, and now I know why. Do you somehow crave attention so badly that even negative attention directed your way is welcome? Seriously, there are many flights that leave Honolulu each day. I strongly suggest that you consider buying a one-way ticket off the island if you feel so badly about life here.
on February 22,2013 | 11:34AM
allie wrote:
on February 22,2013 | 12:51PM
Aquarius1 wrote:
I would donate to the fund to "Send Allie back to her Mandan, North Dakota home". We certainly don't want creatures like it here if it keeps bashing our paradise. If you don't like it here, go back to where you came from.
on February 22,2013 | 07:21PM
nishii3771 wrote:
It's comments like yours that make humans get angry at other humans. I understand if you don't like it there, but you have a choice to leave if you don't like it. If you stay, then it's not as bad you want everyone else to believe. I imagine that maybe you are just trying to appear "edgy" in your attitude or maybe just a little "drama" in your life. Whatever it is, your depressing tone is the reason for your attitude and probably the going on in your life. So sorry for you. And remember, the story is not about how you feel towards Hawaii. It's about the misfortune of these visitors.
on February 22,2013 | 12:16PM
allie wrote:
I am just stating the facts. I love Hawaii and appreciate my education at UH.
on February 22,2013 | 12:51PM
hanaboy wrote:
You love Hawaii, but yet call it a "wretched" place? As a "student" you should learn the meaning of words before using them in your vocabulary especially if you're stating "the facts!" No wonder you're a target of much contempt! Oh, I do know the meaning of contempt! Definition of WRETCHED 1: deeply afflicted, dejected, or distressed in body or mind 2: extremely or deplorably bad or distressing 3 a: being or appearing mean, miserable, or contemptible b: very poor in quality or ability : inferior Synonyms: abject, afflicted, base, bummed, calamitous, cheap, contemptible, dejected, deplorable, depressed, despicable, disconsolate, distressed, dolorous, down, down-and-out, downcast, faulty, flimsy, forlorn, gloomy, hapless, hopeless, hurting, in the pits, inferior, low, low-down, mean, melancholy, miserable, paltry, pathetic, pitiable, pitiful, poor, shabby, shameful, sordid, sorrowful, sorry, spiritless, tragic, unfortunate, unhappy, vile, weak, woebegone, woeful, worthless
on February 22,2013 | 01:34PM
allie wrote:
Umm..you do not think the car break in was not wretched?
on February 22,2013 | 03:01PM
markat wrote:
The car break in was indeed wretched. But you didn't call the 'break-in' wretched. You called the state wretched. Go back and read your post.
on February 22,2013 | 03:16PM
hanaboy wrote:
Thank you, markat for clearing that up for allie! I wish people would read what they're posting before they submit their comments!
on February 22,2013 | 03:27PM
hanaboy wrote:
allie wrote: the car was broken into...so typical of a wretched state that preys on tourists. Allie, Please read your post again! how are we suppose to interpret, "so typical of a wretched state....?"
on February 22,2013 | 03:33PM
Aquarius1 wrote:
Allie, I can think of one wretched individual. Allow me to hand you a mirror.............
on February 22,2013 | 07:30PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
ALL-LIE the dolt once again you PROVE that you are not a UH student by your chronic stupidity. The only question that remains is whether the degree of stupidity you display is inbred or the result of years of dedicated practice.
on February 23,2013 | 09:28PM
false wrote:
I'd call the scum bags that break into cars "wretched"... and what should be done with them is more wretched.
on February 22,2013 | 05:22PM
false wrote:
Thank you hanaboy. Great return! Unfortunately, allie has the GL reading level of K.
on February 22,2013 | 05:38PM
Aquarius1 wrote:
Thanks, hanaboy. Unfortunately, Allie's reading comprehension is not so good. I think even 'drawing a picture' will not help it to understand what you are saying.
on February 22,2013 | 07:28PM
copperwire9 wrote:
You're right. Hawaii's a wretched place. Go home.
on February 22,2013 | 01:43PM
false wrote:
Considering her remarks, what is the worth to her, of a UH degree?
on February 22,2013 | 05:34PM
Fred01 wrote:
Unfortunately, some of the people here in Hawaii, and especially some of those who run their mouths and regularly comment on everything, are wretched.
on February 22,2013 | 06:41PM
false wrote:
You need to go home. "Wretched state" you call us. What other place has tourists and hold ups? Robbers who waste no time harvesting a tour bus at its stop? Your state has as many hooligans as we do. Worse they (the hooligans) probably came from there on the last plane.
on February 22,2013 | 05:33PM
nitpikker wrote:
doesn't sound like they had a guide. any decent guide would have gone in first to gauge the streams force.
on February 22,2013 | 12:24PM
hanalei395 wrote:
This story is so sad. My Aloha to that poor woman's family and fiance. But what also makes it stupid, is the rental car being left alone, in the middle of nowhere, by two dummies. With no secured place to park it, they should not have gone on that hike.
on February 22,2013 | 01:05PM
copperwire9 wrote:
If you had any connection at all to Hanlei itself, you'd never have written such a comment.
on February 22,2013 | 01:45PM
Fred01 wrote:
Do you have any idea how many people go on that hike every day? Stupid comment.
on February 22,2013 | 03:44PM
olos73 wrote:
@Fred01, make up your mind. first you said, "usually around 50 people" then you say a second time "Way more than 50 people." So which is it? Stupid commenter.
on February 22,2013 | 06:22PM
Fred01 wrote:
50 at the beach at a given time, way more throughout any given day. Do you want to meet for coffee downtown tomorrow and debate this? You obviously know nothing, but just want to run your mouth.
on February 22,2013 | 06:43PM
olos73 wrote:
No, let's make it beer in Waianae. Let's see how you run your mouth off there, since you're real good at it.
on February 23,2013 | 07:19AM
Fred01 wrote:
Really pu$y? You want to hide behind a bunch of local thugs? Loser. Go back to your shack.
on February 24,2013 | 08:57PM
Maipono wrote:
Most people including locals don't know that to get to the beach at Hanakapiai, you have to cross that stream. When you cross it to get to the beach it could be low and gentle, then when you have to leave, it's a rapid running creek. Most times, you should wait a few minutes, and the the gentle stream will return, then cross at that time. Mother Nature has her own timing and sometimes it doesn't fit our time, we need to yield to Mother Nature's whim, go against her at your own risk. Sympathy to the family of the woman.
on February 22,2013 | 01:55PM
Lanaiboy wrote:
I have hiked to Hanakapiai many times. There are a constant stream of people making the hike.It's like Diamond Head; lots of locals and tourists do it because the course is fairly flat and of medium difficulty. It is featured in many guide books. Crossing the stream normally is fairly easy and not that dangerous. However, it can be dangerous when the rain comes like many other Hawaii streams; that is why we have flash flood warnings all the time. It's hard to avoid such a tragedy because not everyone keeps track of the weather all the time and knows of the dangers of hiking in Hawaii.
on February 22,2013 | 02:55PM
Goodmedivice wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on February 22,2013 | 03:50PM
false wrote:
Never go into the mountains when it's raining. Stay away from the ocean at Hanakapiai if you value your life. Kauai waters are dangerous. Beware. Stats have demonstrated how unconscious we are about safety.
on February 22,2013 | 05:37PM
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