Visitor Trespassing Rescues Continue As State Seeks New Rules

Hawaii Visitor Trespassing Rescues Continue As State Seeks New Rules

When you go beyond a locked gate or a warning sign and get injured, who should pay for your airlift? Many locals in Hawaii feel it’s the responsibility of the injured party. This session, the Hawaii State Legislature plans to address the issue once and for all.

This question surfaced again last week at Queens Bath on North Shore Kauai, when a visitor from Florida was airlifted by Kauai firefighters Air 1 helicopter after a fall and injury that took place at the infamous Instagram-able sight that was closed to all. And another example is what happened below in January with a visitor who was less than grateful for being rescued.

Big Island video: Visitor saved at precipice of 400′ drop following trespassing.

(Video removed).

In the incident depicted in the video above, which took place in January, a visitor climbed over a protective fence, slipped and was hanging at the edge of a 400 foot drop. Luckily, disaster was diverted when a local defied the danger sign and pulled the visitor to safety. Clearly the fence was there to avoid exactly what occurred. And yet, the tourist who was being saved sounded less than grateful while making demands on those trying to save his life.

In an interview with Hawaii News Now, Aldwin Francis, who came to the rescue, said he did not even receive a thank you for his life-saving efforts. Aldwin said, “for me, it’s good for him to be alive. That’s all that matters to me.” Comments about the visitor’s behavior were less than flattering; some called him an entitled visitor.

Famed Haiku Stairs trespassing leads to demolition.

While still controversial, plans are in place to remove the popular mountain trail, also called the Stairway to Heaven, following “rampant illegal trespassing” amid ongoing safety concerns.

Haiku is comprised of about 4,000 stairs on Oahu’s Koolau mountain range. The US Navy built the stairs during WWII. Access to the stairs has been forbidden for nearly 35 years. In spite of that closure, fines of up to $1,000 and no trespassing signs, however, trespassing has been an ongoing problem.

The Honolulu council unanimously agreed to remove the structure and the mayor has ordered its removal.

In January, three people, including residents, were rescued at Queen’s Bath, in Princeville | See rescue video.

It isn’t just tourists that are the problem. Three teenage Kauai residents who managed to get around a locked gate were stranded in January and an air rescue helicopter was called in and rescued the three using nets. After landing on a nearby golf course, they were transported to the hospital. Kauai’s Fire Chief said “Many people continue to bypass the gate. We urge the public that entry in these hazardous conditions can result in injuries or drownings and puts the lives of the public and our first responders at risk.”

More trespassing on the Road to Hana and at Red Sand Beach.

Last summer, signs were erected to help curb both illegal parking and trespassing that helped to decrease the number of emergency incidents. Among the problems has been many rescues at Twins Falls and at the Bamboo Forest.

Another Maui trespassing problem area has been Kaihalulu/Red Sand Beach. Last fall, a 69-year-old Florida resident fell from the trail when hiking to the beach area by trespassing on marked private property.

Wailua Falls rescue involved dangerous visitor trespassing.

Last year a man was rescued while hiking with his family at Wailua Falls. The 67 year old California visitor slipped and fell 25 feet of the trail. He suffered multiple head injuries for which he both received treatment on the scene and at the hospital. The rescue took two hours.

Wailua Falls is one of the most spectacular Kauai waterfalls with a 173 foot drop. There’s a great viewpoint and a parking lot at the top of the falls. If you go further, you are both trespassing and flirting with death.

Search and rescue bill in Hawaii returns to the legislature this session.

When we wrote about Hawaii hiking incidents and the proposed search and rescue bill, it had been deferred to the 2022 session by the State Legislature. That article stirred revealing comments about search and rescue. It also brought to light how other visitor-centric destinations are handling these dangerous and extremely costly incidents. We were told that air rescues can cost the state up to $47k each.

States, such as Hawaii, are mostly moving to enforce reimbursement for search and rescue under circumstances, such as those involving trespassing. Some version of bill heading to the legislature is likely to pass.

Bottom-line: know your limits and follow the rules.

The ocean is more powerful than you are. Simple. Treat it and surrounding areas (like Queen’s Bath) with respect by reading and heeding warning signs, and being observant of conditions. When on hiking trails, don’t trespass, determine your ability in relation to the hike, dress appropriately, and stay safe. Stay safe, enjoy a fabulous time in Hawaii, and return again.

Other states already charge those who “negligently” require search and rescue.

At least six other states also have moved along in search and rescue reimbursement requirements. New Hampshire started that in 2008. The laws vary in each state about what qualifies for their reimbursement requirement.

As we reported previously, one case went all the way to the New Hampshire state supreme court, which ruled against a hiker who acted negligently when he went on a solo, five-day hike, in spite of an artificial hip and multiple prior dislocations.

Insurance for search and rescue.

There are programs that help fund search and rescues such as these. The visitor pays for these and, in exchange, they needn’t worry about later being charged, should search and rescue be required. This quasi-insurance helps fund the soaring costs of search and rescue. Colorado and Utah both have such programs.

Hawaii’s search and rescue bills.

One bill requires reimbursement from persons who bypass signage or other notices and hike off of marked trails, on closed trails, or enter private, county, or state property. The other bill pending is more general and seeks reimbursement from those acting without regard to safety.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources hopes to “incentivize the general public to stay within authorized managed areas.”

Another bill authorizes Hawaii “government entities that engage in search and rescue (SAR) operations to seek reimbursement when the rescued person required SAR efforts because that person acted in disregard of that person’s safety, including intentionally disregarding a warning or notice.

42 thoughts on “Hawaii Visitor Trespassing Rescues Continue As State Seeks New Rules”

  1. Over the years many of the beautiful areas traditionally enjoyed by residents have been purchased by wealthy individuals who then restrict access. Trespassing is certainly a serious issue, but one has to wonder what happens when only the wealthy have access to the areas once enjoyed by the local community. One of the greatest things about growing up is being able to explore your surrounding environment, not having to get in a car and driving miles to an overcrowded hiking trails. This really isn’t such a black and white issue.

  2. Aloha,. Someone suggested signs with cost of rescue it should be noted on the signs that the cost is also putting rescuers lives at risk. Perhaps statistics like how many rescues have been done at site. Also I hate to say this but we have seen in society that no one seems to be held accountable anymore. Internet bloggers love to sell clicks about these beautiful places but fail in mentioning these spots are dangerous or restricted. Everyone should have to sign up on entering Hawaii they accept responsibility for their actions!

  3. Yes, agree the violator should pay for those services if they are so unfortunate to require rescue. Their blatant disregard for their safety send first responders away from others who need services, especially now with the post pandemic staffing shortages. Auwe!

  4. I believe the trespasser should be charged 100 percent. I am 80 years old and am so tired of paying for the stupid mistakes that individuals do, right down to getting pregnant and then needing us to feed and clothe them because they are not smart enough to use birth control. If you ever want to have Beat of Hawaii with an Aloha heart beat, instead of all the bashing of visitors, start making visitors or any purportrators (sp) pay for their own mistakes.

  5. Just this past Thanksgiving, my family and I were on Oahu. One day we decided to go for a nature hike (my wife’s idea) so we went to one place in the Manoa valley, paid for the access and started our hike. My wife and daughter got to tired and stopped about 1/4 mile from the falls. I continued and got to the pool and falls. There was signage that told people not to enter the pool. Nope, there were lots of people standing in the water; climbing the falls and splashing around. I felt like yelling at them to get out.

    Some people just don’t care about rules. There should be fines or fees for rescuing these entitled people and signage to show how much it cost, minimum of $5000 for first offense, maybe.

  6. What a shame. These idiots that feel rules don’t apply to them are multiplying like rabbits. Not are they only endangering themselves but the lives of first responders as well(& the unappreciated locals). Our society, especially these younger generations simply have no respect for anyone nor anything. Not just the trespassing but total disregard of the islands beaches and the wildlife. We fell in love with Hawaii and are simply awestruck every visit. It’s an amazing privilege to just be able to visit. Like IZ sang in Hele On To Kaua’i …”The people there know they got it all”…”When I was young, not too smart I left my home, looking for a brand new start, To find a place that’s better still, Now I know, I know I never will.”

  7. Aloha Rob and Jeff. Re: Bob B. The property owner would not be liable for a lawsuit because the violater was breaking the law.He chose to ignore the fence/gate,the padlock,and the sign. The barbwire is a definite visual sign that a violater is not welcome to enter.I was going to suggest jail, but that would fall on the taxpayers which isn’t fair just like the rescues are not their responsibility either.

    1. Good luck on not being sued people will sue for anything, criminals injured while committing a crime sue the property owner and win, it really depends on which state/city the crime is committed in.

      I was informed by a resident in one state all you have to do is post “NO Trespassing” signs on your property fence every 200 yrds. I personally know of a county where you just have to publish the NO Trespassing Information in the local newspaper for 30 days. I was also told and don’t know if true, that in either of these areas the property owner has the legal right to shoot the Trespasser.
      When I was much younger working on a 1600-acre dairy, we dealt with trespassers frequently they were armed we never were.

  8. Agree that all, including residents of the islands, should be fined and pay the cost of rescue when trespassing or entering a restricted area.

    Signs do not stop any one willing to take the risk of a fine when entering a restricted area. Last week on BI I witnessed this over and over again where a sign clearly stated that the beach was closed to humans for turtle protection, yet people including locals net fishing entered the beach right next to to where the sign was posted.

    I own commercial property that’s had trespassing issues from day one. No amount of barbed wire or fencing has been able to stop the problem.

    The only full proof way of dealing with these issues is to turn Hawaii into a police state. Is that what you really want?

  9. My take from this story is that all of Hawaii should become a National Park for all to enjoy. I have been to several of the places described before they were limited to locals only. When entitled Hawaiians go around those no trespassing signs and need to be rescued (don’t say it doesn’t happen) it doesn’t make the local news or biased articles like this.
    So the solution is to eminent domain all of the islands and make it a national park so that everyone can enjoy All of the magnificence, not just the dwindling number of spot the local folk begrudgingly share.

  10. Illegal trespassing is unlawful, a crime being committed in all honesty. And having to be rescued due to a person’s illegal activities punishable by law right? Paying for preventable and illegal excursions and placing first responders in jeopardy of losing their lives must have consequences.The state of Hawaii has every right to be reimbursed for the people who insist upon entering areas that are dangerous or beyond the scope of physical activities people can’t safety handle. Hitting people in their wallets sends a message understandable for even the most foolhardy will eventually understand. Stay safe.

    1. Hit them in their wallets!
      Pass the law. Towing and fines are international languages.


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