East Hawaii News

Man Survives 115-Foot Fall Near Volcano House

August 14, 2013, 12:38 PM HST
* Updated August 14, 3:59 PM
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Thanks to a little luck and a lot of help from rangers, a Kurtistown man managed to survive a 115-foot plunge off of a sheer cliff in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park yesterday.

At around 4:45 p.m. on Aug. 13, a hiker notified park rangers at the Kīlauea Visitor Center that she had heard cries for help coming out of the dense vegetation along Halema`uma`u Trail, which lies directly below the Volcano House Hotel.

The hiker initially thought someone was attempting a prank, but reported the noises anyway.

Rangers were able to locate a man, identified as 73-year-old Harry Osachy of Kurtistown, in a brush-covered area laden with native ‘uluhe ferns approximately 115 feet below a cliff’s edge behind the hotel. The park’s Search and Rescue Coordinator John Broward was then lowered by helicopter to Osachy’s location.

Broward pulled the man to safety early in the evening, with the help of helicopter pilot David Okita.

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The victim was then transported by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center, with injuries to his pelvis and shoulder. He had numerous scrapes from the fall, and was suffering from dehydration at the time of his rescue.

HVNP ranger John Broward and Pilot David Okita rescuing the victim. HVNP image.

HVNP ranger John Broward and Pilot David Okita rescuing the victim. HVNP image.

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Osachy, who is Micronesian and speaks little English, told rescuers that he had fallen on Monday. The Kurtistown resident had reportedly climbed over a barrier behind the Volcano House Hotel before falling 115 feet to the brush-covered area below.

HVNP rescuers credit Osachy’s survival in part to luck. The thick foliage at the bottom of the drop is thought to have helped to break the fall.

HVNP Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando, who was on-site during the rescue, expressed frustration over the incident, commenting, “Once again, risky behavior by a visitor endangered the lives of our staff.”

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Orlando praised the rangers involved in the rescue, stating, “We were able to execute an exemplary response from our cadre of specially-trained first responders, and thankfully no one else was injured.”

The rescue was the 13th SAR mission at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park this year.

Last year, park SAR crews responded to a total of 26 incidents.

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