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Injured man, 5 others cited for trespassing after rockfall at Sacred Falls

Nina Wu

State conservation officers on Tuesday afternoon cited an injured Honolulu man, along with five others, for trespassing at Sacred Falls State Park following a rockfall incident.

At about 2 p.m. on the Kamehameha Day holiday, Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers who were already in the park enforcing the rules treated Lincoln Hittner for minor injures.

They also issued the group of six people — all Hawaii residents and one visitor from Australia — citations for trespassing in a closed park.

Hittner described his near miss with the rockfall as “15 seconds of terror,” according to state officials.

The park has been closed, and warning signs posted, since a deadly 1999 Mother’s Day incident in the park left eight people dead and dozens of others hurt.

Despite warnings, hikers continue to trespass at Sacred Falls 20 years after that tragedy

Meanwhile, on Hawaii island Tuesday, DOCARE officers also intercepted hikers trying to access what is known as the White Road trail in the Kohala Forest Reserve. The trail is also closed for safety reasons, but has unfortunately been featured widely on social media and online as a“great hike to do at your own risk.”

The hikers on Hawaii island were given warnings. Two years ago, DOCARE officers cited more than 100 hikers at the same trail for trespassing.

“The issue of people ignoring warning and closure signs and putting themselves and first responders into danger just won’t go away,” said DOCARE Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla in a news release. “We put a great deal of time and energy into patrolling closed parks and trails, when we could be devoting our resources to the myriad of other issues that our officers are responsible for across the state,” he added.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has extensively publicized the dangers of entering closed areas over the past few years, with a video on Sacred Falls that hikers can view on their smartphones via a QRC link on closed signs at the park’s entrance.

As of last month, it has been viewed 657 times.

Curt Cottrell, DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator, said people who ignore warning signs and disregard the rules are showing great disrespect.

“When people enter closed areas such as Sacred Falls they expose themselves to flash floods, rockfalls, or slip and fall injuries along cliffs and unmanaged rough terrain — incidents that are potentially fatal,” said Cottrell. “This reckless behavior is a personal choice versus accidental injuries in managed recreational areas, and egregiously risks our first responders and enforcement officers’ safety and exposes them to unnecessary potential injury.”

DLNR recommends that hikers stay on legal trails in the Na Ala Hele system, and reminds them that hundreds of miles are available across Hawaii.

Additionally, DLNR has proactively reached out to bloggers and travel websites that feature information about closed parks and trails, asking them to remove it. Most have voluntarily complied.

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