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Missing hiker rescued after HPD locates cell phone signal

By Sarah Zoellick

LAST UPDATED: 07:38 p.m. HST, Oct 27, 2013

In a search that would have been impossible before the development of cellphones, rescue crews today found a 26-year-old hiker last seen more than four days earlier, when he told family members he was going to hike a trail above the Nuuanu Pali.

Jan Vankat was found at about 11:15 a.m. in serious but stable condition wedged against a tree after an apparent 100-yard fall on the town side of the Koolau Mountains, Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig said. 

He had no obvious injuries and was "conscious but not totally alert," possibly suffering from exposure and dehydration, Seelig said. 

"What happened, we don't know," Seelig said.

At 6 a.m. Wednesday, Vankat, a visitor from Sweden who was staying with an uncle, told his family he was headed to the Pali Notches Trail and would be home in the evening, police said.

They reported him missing on Friday, and police began searching for him. Honolulu CrimeStoppers issued a missing persons alert Saturday for Vankat, describing him as "a very experienced hiker."

At 9 this morning, police were able to pinpoint the location of Vankat's cellphone in the mountains. The fire department sent its helicopter to search about 30 minutes later.

From the Pali Notches, it is possible to hike to the highest peak in the Koolaus, Konahuanui, but the climb is rather hair-raising, including a sheer ascent by rope through a section known as the "Chimney," Seelig said.

On the Nuuanu side, vegetation obscures much of the terrain, but the helicopter crew was able to use its "rotor wash" to blow the foliage aside for a clearer view, Seelig said. 

The crew spotted a backpack at the base of a steep drop, and a rescue team rappelled down to retrieve it. Inside was Vankat's cellphone.

The hiker himself was found 100 yards farther down, where a tree had stopped his fall or slide, Seelig said.

It's unclear how long he had been there. Seelig said hikers reported seeing Vankat's name in the logbook for people hiking the trail, but there was no time associated with the sign-in.

In September 2012, a 30-year-old Mililani woman fell 100 yards in the same area and was critically injured.

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Rescue crew finds hiker via cellphone

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Skyler wrote:
I think someone ought to go looking for him; he could be injured.
on October 27,2013 | 08:46AM
false wrote:
Some of that climb is very dangerous. Not wise to go alone or without a person who knows that mountain. Foolish decision. What does it cost?
on October 27,2013 | 09:16AM
allie wrote:
on October 27,2013 | 02:20PM
noheawilli wrote:
There is nothing dangerous with hiking alone, I do it frequently. The Pali notches has some sketchy areas to it, we should form a volunteer group that does the SAR and only call the HFD if greater resources are needed. I'll join.
on October 27,2013 | 09:44AM
Skyler wrote:
Sounds like a good idea - it's been 5 days with off & on rain, too. The State has an urban search & rescue team - maybe they could assist?
on October 27,2013 | 11:56AM
W_Williams wrote:
Great news of his rescue. Mahalo Honolulu Fire Department.
on October 27,2013 | 01:47PM
Bully wrote:
The city should charge these hikers for the rescue. Hike at your own risk and if you should need a rescue you will pay for it.
on October 27,2013 | 02:34PM
RichardCory wrote:
This is what taxes are for. Deal with it, or take up seasteading.
on October 27,2013 | 04:37PM
control wrote:
Except that this guy isn't paying taxes. We are. Enough already.
on October 27,2013 | 05:14PM
eoe wrote:
I am happy to charge him, as long as we charge anyone who uses police, fire or lifeguard services.
on October 27,2013 | 05:44PM
copperwire9 wrote:
Your compassion is touching.
on October 27,2013 | 09:43PM
Skyler wrote:
Good news - glad someone found him alive. His lucky day!
on October 27,2013 | 02:34PM
Skyler wrote:
Good news and I'm glad someone found him alive.
on October 27,2013 | 02:35PM
Skyler wrote:
What is wrong with saying "His lucky day"? Silly.
on October 27,2013 | 02:35PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
Great news and good work by HFD and HPD! If I ever get in hot water in the back country, it will give me hope knowing such dependable people are looking for me.
on October 27,2013 | 03:14PM
krusha wrote:
Good thing his battery on his phone didn't die. My phone only lasts a couple of days, so probably wouldn't help me if I got stuck for longer than that :)
on October 27,2013 | 04:53PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
It is completely reckless and irresponsible to go running off alone and unprepared. This individual endangered the lives of rescue personnel and that is unacceptable.
on October 27,2013 | 05:05PM
control wrote:
And yet another overconfident out of state hiker gets into trouble. So why did it take so long to report and as a missing person, not a missking hiker?
on October 27,2013 | 05:18PM
lynnh wrote:
So why didn't they track his phone days ago?
on October 27,2013 | 08:59PM
lucky181 wrote:
Why did his family wait two days to report him missing?
on October 27,2013 | 09:21PM
IAmSane wrote:
Glad he's okay.
on October 27,2013 | 10:32PM
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