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Abandoned Rental Car Removed From Mauna Kea Summit

Posted February 27, 2013, 11:21 AM HST Updated February 27, 2013, 01:16 PM HST
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The condition of the retrieved Alamo rental car showed that it was a rough ride down the cinder slope. Photo courtesy of Big Mikey and Richard of Ken’s Towing.

A wayward rental car was removed Tuesday after being perched for more than a week on the slope of a cinder cone below the summit of Mauna Kea.

Ken’s Towing of Hilo was hired by Alamo, the company which had rented the vehicle to a tourist couple, to tow the car up the slope and back to Hilo.

The procedure had been delayed because of wintry weather on the summit of the 13,796-foot volcano.

The towing process underway. Photo by Big Mikey and Richard of Ken's Towing.

The towing process underway. Photo by Big Mikey and Richard of Ken’s Towing.

The couple had driven the Nissan Altima to the summit on Feb. 17. After parking and leaving the car to use the restroom, they noticed the car rolling down the slope of the pu`u below.

It is not known why the car began moving.

Stewart Hunter, general manager of Mauna Kea Observatories Support Services, said the process was uneventful.

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“The removal of the car went real smooth,” he said, adding that for safety purposes a small portion of the access road was closed for a time.

Hunter said the presence of snow helped reduce the impact of the towing on the pu`u’s cinder surface.

All in all, the operation took a couple of hours, he said.

More than slightly worse for wear, the rental car is ready for its trip back down the mountain. Photo by Big Mikey and Richard of Ken's Towing.

More than slightly worse for wear, the rental car is ready for its trip back down the mountain. Photo by Big Mikey and Richard of Ken’s Towing.

Even though this incident involved an unattended car, those involved in the management of the summit area say it can be dangerous to drive anything but a four-wheel-drive vehicle up the steep and unpaved road to the summit. And even those vehicles can encounter problems during inclement weather or because of poor driving techniques, they say.

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