Abandoned Rental Car Removed From Mauna Kea SummitFebruary 27, 2013, 11:21 AM HST (Updated February 27, 2013, 1:16 PM)
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 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.
“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.
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.