More Kauai visitors have just received emergency helicopter airlifts on Kauai. On Thursday, a visitor from California, 32 years old, was evacuated from the Kalalau Trail at Haena State Park due to an injured knee. As is traditional, he was evacuated to Princeville Airport, where an ambulance met the helicopter. While offered transportation to the hospital, the man declined any further assistance. This is after the expense to Kauai for air transport, ambulance, and personnel. Who should pay?
A week ago Sunday, another similar issue was on the same trail. Three hikers were rescued when inclement winter weather and washed-out trail conditions led to another Air 1 helicopter assist. In that case, the three were transported to Hanakapiai Beach and continued their hike. Who should pay?
Also, a California hiker was rescued from the same trail last month. In that case, the man, with unknown injuries, received a helicopter evacuation to Princeville Airport and was then transported to Lihue for emergency room treatment. And right before that incident, there was another air rescue not far away when a female Utah visitor, age 53, jumped from a rope in Kapaa, was injured, and required air evacuation. Who should pay?
So far, since January, there have been at least 10 Kauai air rescues and countless ground rescues.
State readies pay for rescue Bill.
Hawaii’s legislature seems determined this time to pass at least some bill to make hikers pay for their rescues. The current bill moving forward, unfortunately, only relates to rescues from trails where visitors are trespassing and where there are signs posted.
Many say this doesn’t go far enough, or as far as other states requiring that hikers obtain paid insurance for such rescues. Some feel like this is at least a start in protecting hikers and eliminating wasted resources needed elsewhere.
Some, however, including the Honolulu Police Department, are concerned that this would prevent some people from seeking emergency help when needed. Others, including the president of the HI Fire Fighters Assn. spoke in favor of the measure.
Despite any concerns, the bill has just passed the Finance Committee with unanimous approval. A system will be required to assess fines against these hikers if passed.
This is a statewide problem.
We’ve written previously about the Haiku stairs rescues on Oahu. The long-closed, still famous stairway has reportedly seen 188 people rescued since 2010. Last month, the Honolulu Fire Department deployed nearly 20 personnel in six units, including a rescue helicopter, to provide emergency help for three illegal hikers following injury. Partly to blame are social media posts showing people hiking and people wanting the exact Instagram moment.
Why are there so many rescues at the Kalalau Trail, and how to avoid them?
- Not following warning notices or trail closure signs during inclement weather like heavy rain can put you at risk for injury and rescue. If you travel during rainy months, you must be prepared for closures and a sudden change in plans.
- Ensure you are in condition, have proper footwear, and can handle heights before doing the entire trail. Even going as far as Hanakapiai can be thrilling and spectacular.
- Join the Kalalau Trail Facebook Group. It’s current and has updates from hikers about their experiences, including those who turned back.
- Stay current by looking at the state website for Napali State Wilderness Park. The website will advise you of closures and the permit required by advance reservation if you plan to hike beyond Hanakapiai Beach.