POSTED: 03:03 p.m. HST, Aug 23, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 07:18 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2013
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park rangers and a helicopter pilot on Friday rescued a 76-year-old Chinese visitor who got lost while hiking Thursday.
Park officials said Zigui Yuan, 76, was found at daybreak after being reported missing by his wife at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Yuan became lost near Pu'u Huluhulu cinder cone, where there is little or no cell phone reception, they said. His wife told rangers that the couple and a female friend had been hiking Thursday morning when he separated from the women at the Pu'u Huluhulu trailhead.
When he didn’t return, the women reported him missing to a park ranger at Thurston Lava Tube.
Park rangers searched for him until 1 a.m. and resumed the search at daybreak with the help of helicopter pilot David Okita who spotted Yuan about 660 feet southwest of Pu'u Huluhulu, officials said.
Yuan was cold, dehydrated, and exhausted, but had no major injuries, and declined medical treatment, officials said. He was reunited with his wife at 6:30 a.m., they said.
He told rescuers that after becoming lost, he took shelter against the wind in a small depression in the old lava flows, and waited for daylight. Temperatures in the park regularly plunge into the 50s.
"Mr. Yuan made the right decision to hunker down for the night," said ranger John Broward, search and rescue coordinator at the park. "This area is riddled with unstable ground, hidden earth cracks, deep craters, and sharp and brittle lava. He could have been seriously injured if he continued trying to find his way out in the dark."
This was the 14th search and rescue incident in the park this year, compared to 26 incidents for all of last year.
Park officials said hiking tips and other safety information is available at www.nps.gov/havo, or by asking rangers.