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Searchers find body on cliff side

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    A hiker looks up near the site where a body was found above Dillingham Airfield yesterday in Mokuleia. The body is believed to be that of Are Hjorungnes, a visiting engineering professor from Norway, who was last seen a week ago on a mountain trail run in the hills above Mokuleia with members of an Oahu running club.
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Firefighters recovered a body from behind Dillingham Airfield yesterday that is believed to be that of a missing Norwegian professor.

"We’re almost certain it’s the body of the missing hiker from last week," said Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Earle Kealoha.

Are Hjorungnes, 40, a visiting engineering professor conducting research at the University of Hawaii, disappeared May 14 while on a trail run with the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team above Mokuleia.

That morning, a group of eight started their run in the Peacock Flats area behind Dillingham Airfield and took a break near the top of the ridge. Hjorungnes and another man, both faster runners, took off ahead. When Hjorungnes didn’t meet up with the group at the bottom, club members went back up but couldn’t find him.

Firefighters and police launched a search with dogs and helicopters and lowered rescue specialists by rope into ravines covered with trees.

After three fruitless days, the Honolulu Fire Department called off its search. Volunteers and friends, however, continued searching every day.

About 50 people searched yesterday, said HURT member Jeff Fong, 38. Volunteers included members of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club and HURT as well as friends of Hjorungnes, he said.

Fong met Hjorungnes only a week before he disappeared, but searched four days for him, taking time off from his job as a federal archaeologist to help.

"After a while, it kind of eats at your heart," Fong said. "That was the most important thing, letting his family bring him home."

Acquaintances said Hjorungnes’ family members are in town.

Fred Boll of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club organized yesterday’s search.

He said teams of four or five volunteers started from the base of the mountains at dawn and began climbing along every gulch between Dillingham Airfield and Camp Erdman. He said they noticed broken trees and smashed grass from an apparent tumble.

He said he suspects Hjorungnes was descending the trail, but missed a turn near a corral and continued straight on a road that leads to the next hill, owned by Dillingham Ranch.

From the top of that hill, Hjorungnes could look down and see a straight shot through grass toward the parking lot, he said.

But the view is deceiving, and steep drops are hidden behind rock outcroppings, he said. He suspected Hjorungnes lost his footing and fell over one of the drops about a third of the way down the mountain.

Firefighters received a call at about 12:30 p.m. yesterday and used a hiker’s cellphone coordinates to determine their location on the mountainside, said Kealoha. A helicopter was used to lower rescue specialists onto the cliff and lift the body off the cliff side at about 2:45 p.m.

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