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Missing hikers found in Kipahulu area

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 9:04 p.m. HST, Mar 22, 2014

Two teenage Kihei girls spent a cold, wet night in Haleakala National Park after they became stranded by floodwaters.

Park rangers, with help from the Maui Police and Fire departments, reunited the hikers with their families Saturday after an extensive search-and-rescue operation in the park's Kipahulu District.

The rangers were notified at 5:45 p.m. Friday by family members that a 16-year-old girl and a friend were stranded by floodwaters near Pipiwai Trail.

Park workers began the search and were joined by Maui County firefighters and police from Hana, the park said in a news release. The team continued the search until 9:30 p.m. in heavy rain and flooding until it became unsafe.

The search resumed at 5:30 a.m. Saturday and at 7 a.m. the two girls were spotted by a Maui fire helicopter.

The girls were airlifted out, examined by paramedics and released with minor cuts and bruises.

Two searchers were also temporarily stranded by rising waters at one point during the operation.

The hikers had left the park trail along Pipiwai Stream and bypassed a fence designed to prevent hikers from going up Palikea Stream, a tributary that feeds into Pipiwai. The park closed the Pools of Oheo, also called the Seven Sacred Pools, at 3 p.m. Friday based on data from its stream monitoring system.

"We are impressed with the bravery shown by the young women, thankful for the dedication shown by all the rescue teams, and above all relieved that all are safe," park Superintendent Natalie Gates said Saturday. "Let's honor the courage of the girls and their rescuers by spreading the word -- follow park instructions on signs, check our website and listen to guidance from our staff. Not doing so invites tragedy."

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