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Proposal would have some hikers pay for rescue service

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JIM BORG / MAY 18, 2015
This file photo shows the Na Pali Coast, Hanakapiai on May 18.

LIHUE » A proposed measure in Kauai County would require rescued hikers to repay the government for recovery missions if they disregard warning signs.

Kauai County Councilman Mason Chock introduced a bill that would allow government agencies to seek reimbursement for search-and-rescue missions from rescued people if they ignored warnings or notices, reports The Garden Island.

Chock compared his proposal to ambulance services, which injured people must pay for themselves. He said people who have accidents on trails will not be required to reimburse the county, only those who are negligent.

"We don’t want people to stop calling for help. If people want help, they’re gonna call for help," said Chock. "But what I’m encouraging is people to think about what it is they’re doing before they do it."

The county’s main concern is with search and rescue missions on the Na Pali Coast, he said.

"We get people walking bare feet to Kalalau without any water, with a three-year-old, sometimes an infant," explained Chock. "We get people who are walking on braces, have new hips. They don’t realize how treacherous the hike is."

The county spent nearly $20,000 on helicopter rescues in the last fiscal year, a figure that doesn’t include personnel costs, said spokeswoman Sarah Blane.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for July 1.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said she agrees with the measure’s concept, but would like to study the logistics of the bill.

Chock said proving negligence won’t be easy.

"That means you’re gonna have to have documentation that there was a sign," he said. "The person disregarded the sign because they can say they didn’t see it. If and when we know there was a real blatant disregard, maybe thrill seekers who know that you cannot do certain things here and do it anyways, then those things will come into question."

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