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Recent air rescues prompt officials to remind hiking safety

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 2:18 p.m. HST, May 18, 2014

Recent rescues involving hikers and helicopters is prompting the Honolulu Fire Department to remind hikers to stay on marked trails and to pack appropriately.

Firefighters responded to six rescues Saturday involving Air 1, some of which could have been preventable, officials said.

"At the time we had other concurrent emergencies that needed Air 1," HFD spokesman David Jenkins said. "We're not going to deny service to anyone, but we're unable to be at two places at one time."

This also concerns rescue personnel because after so many hours in the air, the helicopter must land and undergo mandatory maintenance and inspection, Jenkins said. 

"Every hour in the air brings us closer to the maintenance point," Jenkins said.

One incident happened Saturday at 2:56 p.m.

Firefighters responded to several dehydrated hikers in a group of 18 people on a trail in Pearl City. Eleven hikers were airlifted off the trail and one person was transported by EMS.  The remaining six hikers were able to get out on their own, Jenkins said.

Another incident occurred at Haiku Stairs or "Stairway to Heaven" at 8:09 a.m. Two men went on the closed trail and got stuck on a ridge. They were unable to go up or down, he said.  

The men were airlifted out of the trail with no injuries.

An incident Tuesday involved two female visitors from Florida who read about the Olomana Trail online, according to Jenkins.

The trail is not closed to the public, but can be very hazardous and should be attempted by experienced hikers, he said.

The women got stuck on the trail and were airlifted without injuries.

Jenkins want to remind hikers to bring lots of water, charged batteries, wear proper footwear, know your skill level, and let others know where you're hiking.  He also said to allow for enough daylight in the return trip.

With schools entering summer vacation and more visitors come to the island, he forsees more incidents. 

"People getting hurt, that's not necessarily preventable.  But making the conscious choice to go off trail, or do something beyond your skill level or not wearing appropriate shoes is," he said. "Healthy people putting themselves in situation where assistance is needed." 

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