East Hawaii News

UPDATE: Missing Man Spotted, But Present Location Unknown

September 25, 2013, 4:22 PM HST
* Updated September 27, 5:10 PM
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***Updated 5:42 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26.***

A man who left Hilo Friday paddling toward South Point was spotted on land in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Sunday night, a spokeswoman said this afternoon.

Ranger Jessica Ferracane said a ranger encountered Richard Gomez, 48, of Hilo walking across the lava near the bottom of Chain of Craters Road at about 4 p.m.

The man told the ranger that earlier that day his boat had crashed on the rocks at Kalapana — roughly eight miles to the north.

“He told the ranger that he lost everything,” Ferracane said.

It is not currently clear what type of vessel Gomez was using. Police initially said it was a kayak, but later received a report that it was a small rowboat.

Gomez told the ranger that he had intended to row to Halape, a beach near the northern border of Ka`u in the park’s backcountry.

The ranger reported that the man had a head wound and appeared disoriented, and was wearing flip-flop-type slippers and carrying an empty water bottle.

After receiving first aid and water from the ranger, Gomez said he intended to continue walking toward Halape.

However, the ranger convinced him that such a trek — it’s roughly 12 miles over rugged lava to Halape from the end of Chain of Craters Road — would be unwise given the fact the man had no food and improper footwear and only a blanket.

Gomez then announced his intention to head toward the beach at Punalu`u, but said he also might head toward Miloli`i in South Kona where he had some fishing gear stashed.

He then declined the ranger’s offer of a ride up Chain of Craters Road to Highway 11 and began walking up the roadway.

Nearly two hours later, the ranger was driving up Chain of Craters Road and encountered the man again. This time Gomez accepted a ride from the ranger who took him to Namakanipao, a campground in the national park off Highway 11.

The ranger told Gomez that although he was supposed to register to stay there, he allowed the man to stay with a group that offered Gomez warmth from their campfire.

Ferracane said the ranger was off-duty on Tuesday and again on Wednesday, when the missing-man report was issued. He learned about the report after returning to work today and then informed the Coast Guard of the situation.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Stephen Woodbury told Big Island Now the agency’s participation in the search ended today at 2:50 p.m.

Hawaii Police Department spokeswoman Chris Loos late this afternoon said officers were still trying to locate Gomez.

Posted 4:22 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25:

A search is underway for a Hilo man reported missing after reportedly leaving Hilo in a kayak reportedly for a trip to South Point.

Police said 48-year-old Richard Gomez left Hilo at 10 a.m. Friday.

Gomez is described as bald with green eyes. He is 6-feet tall and weighs 175 pounds.

The Coast Guard is searching the waters off the windward side of the Big Island with the assistance of the Hawaii Fire Department.

The searchers include the crew aboard a HC-130 Hercules airplane based at the Coast Guard’s Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu. The 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Kittiwake is also en route to help in the search.

Authorities asked that people on shore and on the water to keep an eye out for Gomez and to report all sightings to the Sector Honolulu Command Center at 808-842-2600.

Anyone with information on Gomez’s whereabouts is asked to call the Hawaii Police Department at 935-3311.

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