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.
@ellai This dude jumped over the fence to take a whole picture of Akaka falls 🤦♀️ ps. no one got hurt in this video #fyp #hawaiitiktok ♬ original sound – mela
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.