Emergency personnel in Kula used GPS coordinates from a cell phone to locate a van and its two passengers after the vehicle disappeared over a 60-foot steep incline on Thursday and then another 25-foot drop before ending up upright in a dry stream bed.
The 27-year-old female driver of the Toyota Sienna van, who lives in Kapalua, and a 27-year-old man visiting from New Jersey received injuries found to be “surprisingly minor,” the Maui Fire Department said. The pair declined transport to the hospital.
The van went off Waipoli Road Thursday evening about 2.7 miles above the Alii Kula Lavender farm and traveled 50 feet before dropping down the first incline.
“At 6:43 p.m. Kula firefighters arrived in the area but did not know where the vehicle was,” the Maui Fire Department said in a release. “Firefighters activated their emergency siren so the people could tell dispatchers whether rescuers were nearby. The woman wasn’t able to blast her car horn to help firefighters locate them because it was apparently damaged in the crash.”
Using the siren and the woman’s cell phone coordinates, fire crews located the spot where the van left the roadway and made voice contact with the pair.
Rescue personnel rappelled down and used a machete to chop a path to the driver and passenger, who said they made it out of the vehicle and were not seriously injured, the fire department said.
Both were hoisted up the incline using ropes and pulleys. The pair were on their way down the mountain after visiting Polipoli Spring Recreation Area when the van’s brakes started failing, the fire department reported the driver saying.
“She pulled off to the shoulder but her Toyota Sienna van wouldn’t stop and they went over the cliff,” the department said.