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Couple rescued from closed 'Stairway to Heaven' trail

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 01:26 a.m. HST, Feb 11, 2014

A sprained ankle forced a couple to spend the night at the top of the closed Windward Oahu trail known as the Stairway to Heaven.

The fire department got a distress cell phone call from a man and a woman at 2 Monday morning, informing officials that the woman had sprained her ankle.

The couple were advised to stay in place until first light when the fire department's rescue helicopter could be launched.

The couple is believed to have started the hike from the Tripler Army Medical Center side of the Koolaus.

The fire department established a command center at Kaneohe District Park and the helicopter was able to locate and airlift the hikers out at about 7:30 a.m.

Haiku Stairs has been closed and fenced off since 2003.

The Navy built the stairs during World War II to access radio equipment at the mountain summit.

The original wooden stairs were built to provide access to a Navy radio antenna atop the Koolau Range in Haiku Valley. They were replaced in 1952 with metal stairs.

The city repaired the 3,922-step stairway, which was shut down in 1987 due to disrepair.

The city had planned to reopen the Haiku Stairs in October 2002. But from 2002 to 2003, the popular hiking attraction became a point of contention with area residents. They claimed hikers were trespassing through their property, parking on their streets, blocking mail delivery and trash pickup and arriving early in the morning, causing dogs to bark and waking residents. So access was fenced off.

In February 2013, a 32-year-old man and 25-year-old woman visiting Oahu from the mainland were cited for trespassing, a petty misdemeanor. The two spent the night in the mountains after they got lost, called for help and had to be rescued by firefighters.

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HAJAA1 wrote:
Why rescue?
on February 10,2014 | 06:39AM
paniolo wrote:
Which one had the sprained ankle? They both walked without assistance when the helicopter dropped them off at the park. The woman was dropped off first, and none of the rescue personnel assisted her to the waiting area. The guy was dropped off later, and he walked by himself with no limp to the waiting area also. Both looked like in their late 20s to early 30s. Saw this on morning news. Good job HFD.
on February 10,2014 | 06:51AM
lwandcah wrote:
Pretty good. How much is a helicopter ride on one of the senic tours? I would think they should at least have to use 4 ride coupons which would be 12 script.
on February 10,2014 | 07:03AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Free helicopter ride.....well not so free since taxpayers are paying for it.
on February 10,2014 | 07:08AM
popaa wrote:
Why should I pay for someone's recklessness and disregard of our laws. Let them pay for it themselves.
on February 10,2014 | 08:57AM
cojef wrote:
They called in around 2 AM hoping that the helicopter would come and get them off the mountain, not realizing the fire department was not going to make such a perilous attempt at that hour. At first light the copter got them out and as "paniolo" indicated they were ambulatory, meaning they wanted off immediately, and that their call was possibly frivolous. Serves them right that fire department made them wait until first light.
on February 10,2014 | 11:00AM
jess wrote:
It's not free. They will be billed, just like ambulance rides aren't free.
on February 10,2014 | 03:50PM
loquaciousone wrote:
It's time to tear down the stairs and close it for good so us good taxpayers don't have to keep paying rescue costs for lolo like these.
on February 10,2014 | 07:08AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
Yeah, close all the trails. The beaches too. And shut down the roads too; it's too dangerous with those lolo drivers out there. Then everyone can stay inside, watch TV and never get hurt and have to be rescued.

The only reason the Stairway trail is closed is because there are some political heavy hitters who live up there who like to spend the public's money, but never want to see the public. How else do you explain a full time security guard sitting at the trail head? That's better protection than Iolani Palace gets.

on February 10,2014 | 08:36AM
loquaciousone wrote:
The only reason? Better protection.? I know, I know I know....it's Monday...
on February 10,2014 | 08:47AM
kekelaward wrote:
The stairs are in disrepair and someone will eventually lose their life up there. They should dismantle the stairs. It was never meant to be s hiking trail. It was built to support the Omega station
on February 10,2014 | 10:30AM
JamieGo wrote:
I think the stairs were completely renovated in 2002 by the City who had hoped to open the trail for hiking. However, due to disputes over land ownership between the City, DLNR, and DHHL, the stairs were never reopened. I don't think the stairs are in disrepair anymore. People who I know who go up there regularly tell me the stairs are just fine, although I've never been. The picture above is an old one from 1987. :-)
on February 10,2014 | 12:21PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
kekelaward wrote: The stairs are in disrepair and someone will eventually lose their life up there. They should dismantle the stairs. It was never meant to be s hiking trail.

So what trails WERE intended to be hiking trails? Name one.

The answer is, none of them. All the hiking trails used to be some other kind of trail.

on February 10,2014 | 01:54PM
jess wrote:
Makapu'u Lighthouse.
on February 10,2014 | 04:03PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
1) That started out as the path to the light house

2) As far as hiking goes, that's one step above the Walmart parking lot.

on February 10,2014 | 05:39PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
Kalaheo1 the stairs were never designed or built for hiking, heavy foot traffic or to be a park, unlike the other venues you cited. It has nothing to do with politics. Would you personally pay the cost to upgrade the design and the construction cost to make it a park or a hiking attraction? Probably not. It's a safety issue. The only thing that made it political is people like you pushing for it to become something it was never supposed to be.
on February 10,2014 | 10:49AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
Really. It's a safety issue? So there must have been all sorts of injuries and deaths, right? A real meat grinder, huh?

Historically, people do get injured or killed on trails like Olomana Trail or Manoa Falls.

The reason that the Stairway trail is closed is because of the politically powerful folks who live up there and don't want the public parking on their streets. It was all set to reopen in 2002 when the old boy network shut it down and posted a guard.

on February 10,2014 | 02:00PM
oldertimer808 wrote:
The stairs is not a hiking trail. The military put it there and it has used its usefulness. Comparing the stairs to our hiking trails like in Olomana is not the same thing. This is not about being polically correct. This is about being considerate and respecting the people who live on the street that is close to the stairs. So Kalaheo1 you're grinding the wrong axe. I think if you lived on that street, you would be singing a different tune. The stairs should be torn down. It is not part of our Aina. Restore the Koolau to her natural beauty without the stairs.
on February 10,2014 | 07:25PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
No, I'm grinding the right axe. What is so special about the residents next to the Stairway trail that no one can park there? How is that different from any of the beach accesses or other hiking trials island wide. What other closed trail gets a full time guard?

The resident's reasoning that "the trial is closed because the trail is closed" is circular. The only reason that the trial is closed is because the residents are rich and powerful and politically plugged in. Otherwise it would have been open in 2002 as planned, after the City's $900,000 renovation.

on February 11,2014 | 04:28AM
kahuku01 wrote:
Your reasons are invalid. There's more to it than what you don't know.
on February 10,2014 | 07:52PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
Would you mind being a little more vague, please?

Your detailed critique and explanation almost have me convinced.

on February 11,2014 | 04:22AM
jess wrote:
The stairs need some TLC, but I agree, you can't close everything because of possible dangers, people need to use their heads. Security is only there at certain times, which is why people go early. I can see the stairs from my house and see people going up & coming down with headlamps in the middle of the night, if it was maintained and open to the public it would be much safer. They should charge people a fee and the profits should go to maintenance.
on February 10,2014 | 03:52PM
soosie wrote:
zipline in that area instead of up at royal summit
on February 10,2014 | 07:57AM
lwandcah wrote:
Zipline! Never been on the Stairway trail, but I may be interested in a zipline from the top. That would be incredible!
on February 10,2014 | 09:09AM
lokela wrote:
Yeah. These hikers who get stranded on off limit trails should pay for their own rescue. Not us.
on February 10,2014 | 07:58AM
seaturtle wrote:
I totally agree. Rescue workers risk their lives to save all irresponsible hikers that don't heed "closed and warning signs" at trails. I guess they're too ignorant and above following rules. Make them pay for the rescue costs.
on February 10,2014 | 10:07AM
4sanitysake wrote:
I hear of people going up there illegally all the time...the same people that want to reopen climbing at Mokuleia. Bummers if you canʻt climb where you feel like, but the taxpayers canʻt keep paying for people that willingly violate the law.
on February 10,2014 | 08:08AM
kprtyqn wrote:
uummm ok so are the people who get rescued up there do they get sited since we tax payers are paying for EVERY rescue? I mean it just tells ANYONE we can go up there and the state has had issues and enough inexperienced hikers climbing up at whim.
on February 10,2014 | 08:26AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
"Residents claimed hikers were ... parking on their streets,"

Aren't those OUR streets?

Where do these people park when they go to the beach?

on February 10,2014 | 08:31AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Monday again?
on February 10,2014 | 08:49AM
kekelaward wrote:
If they're local and go to Waikiki, they park at Ala.Moana SC Of course, if they're local they don't go to Waikiki.
on February 10,2014 | 10:36AM
Papakolea wrote:
No. The streets in the Castle Hills subdivision are privately owned and maintained.
on February 10,2014 | 04:22PM
kahuku01 wrote:
Kalaheo1: I'm sure if you lived in that area, you would understand the frustration these residents had to put up with such as, hikers trespassing through their property, parking on the streets, blocking mail delivery and trash pick-up, and arriving early in the morning causing dogs to bark and waking residents. It's not a matter of political heavy hitters living in that area. Experience the annoying invasion of outsiders through your neighborhood before speaking outside of the box, than maybe your outlook would be different.
on February 10,2014 | 05:23PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
kahuku01 wrote: Experience the annoying invasion of outsiders through your neighborhood before speaking outside of the box, than maybe your outlook would be different.

Oh, I have!

I lived near the beach for years. People park all up and down the road. It's annoying sometimes, but you can't begrudge people their right to use public roads.

Can you imagine if the residents Maili or Kahuku complained that beach goers were "parking on the streets, blocking mail delivery and trash pick-up, and arriving early in the morning causing dogs to bark and waking residents" and demanded the city post a guard? Do you think the City would post a guard for them?

The people who live around Olomana trail deal with exactly that sort of thing but 1000x worse. So why do the residents around the Stairway trail get a guard? It is because those guys have political juice. They want the taxpayer's money, just not the taxpayers ourselves.

on February 10,2014 | 05:47PM
kahuku01 wrote:
The city posted a guard at the entrance to the stairway to prevent people from going up the stairway because the stairway is off limits and not in the neighborhood for the benefit of the residents. Get your story straight. And how is it annoying sometimes when people park all up and down the road since you live near the beach? Is it the same as the people living close to the stairway? You would have been complaining just as much if you had to witness what the residents at the stairway have encountered. I would have done the same thing and let it be known to the city of the unnecessary constant flow of traffic and people in the neighborhood because of poor planning for access and ample parking by the city and state.
on February 10,2014 | 07:35PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
You haven't yet explained why the stairway trail is different than any other trailhead or beach access? Why is parking there so awful that they need to close the trail and post a guard.

It is the powerful residents who live there who have successfully lobbied the city to keep the trail closed and post guards. The residents have fought every effort to open the trail via alternate entrances and parking. As a result, people who have patiently waited over a decade for legal access now hop fences and disregard signs to access PUBLIC PROPERTY.

on February 10,2014 | 08:03PM
SteveToo wrote:
All the more reason the the stupid government branches to get together and open a legal route to the stairs. They belong to the "people" and should be used by the people.
on February 10,2014 | 08:31AM
control wrote:
And maybe 'you' people should foot the bill while you're at it.
on February 10,2014 | 12:01PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
We already have. We taxpayers paid to have them restored and a bunch of powerful political old boys decided to shut out the public.
on February 10,2014 | 05:48PM
kahuku01 wrote:
It's not quite that easy because one must understand that there are many legal issues involved before the stairs are opened to the public. One of the biggest concern and cost is to be able to provide a proof of a $1 million insurance policy before stepping on those steps. I'm sure Hawaii taxpayers are not willing to have the city spend that kind of money that will not be benefiting the majority of the taxpayers. And so, the stairs stays idle and deteriorate while the city patiently decides to come up with an action plan.
on February 10,2014 | 06:03PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
kahuku01 wrote: "One of the biggest concern and cost is to be able to provide a proof of a $1 million insurance policy before stepping on those steps."

That "proof of a $1 million insurance" requirement is just one more roadblock the rich and powerful have put in place to keep the public from accessing the stairway hike. Why not a $1 million insurance policy to hike Olomana or Manoa Falls? Why not a $1 million insurance policy to swim in Makaha or Waimea?

It's just red tape and bureaucratic nonsense to keep the public off of public land. It a variation on the outrageous fees our State and City government charge to circumvent public freedom of information requests.

on February 10,2014 | 08:09PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Knock down the stairs or provide a parking area away from the neighborhood. Be vigilant on hours of operation.
on February 10,2014 | 08:54AM
ssharick wrote:
Gregg Kakesako is a poor excuse for a reporter. I can see no reason for the way he misrepresented the story other than to piss off readers and to further deprived those that want to see the stairs open and those that want to see them closed. In the article it clearly states that they did not access the hike from the Haiku Stairs side but Mr Kakesako chose to spend most of the article talking about the illegal hiking that takes place on the Haiku Stairs. He also chose to use an outdated picture to accompany the story that makes it look like that actual stairs are a death trap. He should be ashamed for his lack of professionalism.
on February 10,2014 | 10:05AM
loquaciousone wrote:
They should put a sign there and enforce it: If you go up on your own power, you come down on your own power. Either that or you can jump.
on February 10,2014 | 10:25AM
loquaciousone wrote:
on February 10,2014 | 10:25AM
konag43 wrote:
i hate to be heartless but number one its a closed area. number 2 they just cost the city thousands of dollars to rescue them from a prohibited area because of their supidity and selfishness.
on February 10,2014 | 10:35AM
sailfish1 wrote:
Those 2 should be charged with trespassing and also billed for the cost of the rescue. No more free rescues for people who ignore laws, rules, and regulations and then get into trouble.
on February 10,2014 | 10:46AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Sounds like they went up the Moanalua valley trail to the top of the Koolaus and then traversed through the saddle to the top of the Haiku Stairs. I've been on part of that hike, up to the top of the Koolau mountains, but we turned around and came back down instead of progressing along the summit trail. There is actually a turnaround sign at the end of the trail but a lot of people keep going to Haiku.
on February 10,2014 | 11:04AM
salsacoquibx wrote:
Should be stairway to jail..maybe then they will listen
on February 10,2014 | 11:14AM
Kate53 wrote:
Charge them with trespassing and make them pay the full cost of their rescue!
on February 10,2014 | 11:22AM
Opelu wrote:
Send these two bananas a bill for the rescue !!
on February 10,2014 | 11:56AM
bpet wrote:
It constantly amazes me that folks simply do not understand what the terms "closed, forbidden and out of bounds" mean . . . yes, I agree that those who defy the law should be on the hook for the costs of rescuing them . . .every time something like this happens, the person or persons who have to rescue them also put their lives at risk. Grow up people.
on February 10,2014 | 12:06PM
richierich wrote:
The State spent more than $875,000 to renovate the stairs back in 2002 or 2003. Then they never opened them due to complaints from some politicly connected neighbors at the entryway. What a waste of tax payer money. Open the stairway up to the public. And, stop squandering our tax dollars. This ranks right up there with the state's anding of signs at the airport. Paying to install new ones and then paying to put the old ones back. Or the state installing rumble strips only to remove them a year later.
on February 10,2014 | 12:10PM
kahuku01 wrote:
Not really! The city, not the state, renovated the stairs and the city and Board of Water Supply--a semi-autonomous city agency--has control over the stairway. It's not about squandering our tax dollars. One of the requirements is to have a proof of a $1 million dollar insurance, and surely, the taxpayers shouldn't be held liable to pay for such an enormous insurance, unless some hiking group are willing to cough up that amount.
on February 10,2014 | 05:47PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
Yeah and who came up with the $1 million dollar insurance policy requirement and why?

That "proof of a $1 million insurance" requirement is just one more roadblock the rich and powerful have put in place to keep the public from accessing the stairway hike. Why not a $1 million insurance policy to hike Olomana or Manoa Falls? Why not a $1 million insurance policy to swim at Makaha or Waimea?

It's just red tape and bureaucratic nonsense to keep the public off of public land. It a variation on the outrageous fees our State and City government charge to circumvent public freedom of information requests.

on February 10,2014 | 08:11PM
CriticalReader wrote:
on February 10,2014 | 01:08PM
agumakiki wrote:
Fix the stairs & charge a fee (hiking) like The Diamond Head Trail, Hanauma Bay, Honolulu Zoo, etc.
on February 10,2014 | 02:35PM
Papakolea wrote:
Publish the photos and names of these people. The taxpayers just paid for their free helicopter lift after they trespassed onto an unsanctioned trail. We should at least be able to know who we paid to have "rescued".
on February 10,2014 | 04:26PM
wobegone wrote:
Most likely military or military dependents (since they made entry from Tripler Grounds), all incoming military get a required incoming environmental briefing--they are told not to venture into mountain areas after a certain time, and they are to confirm if paths are accessible permitted=--City and State should cite the commander for oversight of his people--or make Commander or First Shirt come to the incident at time of call. Military are not being held accountable, and The City and State lacks the forethought to end this waste rescue opportunity for others who need the help while assets are being used needlessly. Maybe our City and State should check what other local and state govts do with wayward hikers--find, cite and charge for services. Long live the incompetent govt leaders. MY perspective from a retired military history. Pardon the spelling.
on February 10,2014 | 05:47PM
Tahitigirl55 wrote:
What a lie regarding military most of the people r military I look at the cars and they have stickers and I see these stupid people and they r white guys and girls and I yell at them because at 12:00 am they r starting their hike - and it is a work day and I work at 5:00. Believe me I even call HPD and even the Board of Water who now own this stairway.
on February 11,2014 | 05:53AM
hikine wrote:
Whew people are so mean! At least they were safe. I would be more mad if they sue because they spent the night there instead of getting picked up when they called! Pay the bill and life goes on.
on February 10,2014 | 05:49PM
paniolo wrote:
They called at 2 a.m. No rescuers are going up there at that time. HFD waited until it was lighted.
on February 10,2014 | 06:02PM
Anonymous wrote:
Should have left them for the Hawaiian pua'a.
on February 10,2014 | 05:52PM
kailua000 wrote:
as long as they pay for the rescue.
on February 10,2014 | 06:49PM
jeffhonolulu wrote:
How much were they charged for the rescue??? That wasn't answered in this story!! SA write an addendum and let us know!! Also fine them !!
on February 10,2014 | 09:46PM
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