Maui Fire Crews Airlift 26 to Safety

October 8, 2018, 3:40 PM HST (Updated October 8, 2018, 3:40 PM)
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Maui fire fighters were kept busy over the last 24-hours with multiple rescues that resulted in airlifting 26 people to safety.

At 12:21 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7, Napili fire fighters along with Rescue personnel in the fire department’s Air 1 helicopter responded to a call for a hiker in the Nākālele blowhole area who had fallen and sustained injuries to his ankle and wrist, and was unable to walk out. The hiker was initially attended to by the Nāpili fire fighters then airlifted by Air 1 to a landing zone at the highway where he was evaluated by medics.

A second rescue call came at 12:51 p.m.. A group of nine hikers, including five children, were trapped by rising waters in Waihe‘e Valley and unable to exit the valley. Wailuku based fire fighters were dispatched, with Rescue 10 personnel and Air 1 sent to the scene after completing the airlift at the blowhole. Air 1 made several passes through the valley and was initially unable to locate the parties, but Wailuku fire fighters were able to confirm by cell phone that all individuals were in a safe location.

While Air 1 was conducting the search in Waihe‘e Valley, multiple reports of hikers in jeopardy from rapidly rising waters came from ‘Īao Valley at 1:23 p.m. Kahului based fire crews headed to the area, Rescue 10 with Air 1 was redirected due to the multiple callers.

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Air 1 with Rescue 10 personnel were able to locate and airlift the initial five victims, including one infant to a landing area in ‘Īao Valley State Park. Information from the initial victims indicated that additional persons were still further upstream, and unaccounted for. Air 1 searched further upstream, locating eight additional hikers trapped by the rising waters a quarter mile from the initial victims. After those eight were lifted to safety, two more victims were located trapped on a rock in the middle of the stream. They were also airlifted to safety, but indicated that one person was still further upstream. That individual was located after an additional search, and lifted to the landing zone, where all sixteen victims were evaluated by fire personnel and medics.

After the rescues in ‘Īao Valley were completed, Air 1 and Rescue 10 personnel returned to Waihe‘e Valley to continue the search for those individuals still trapped. The victims had relocated to a more visible location and were found by Air 1 after a short search.

Four adults and five children were lifted to an improvised landing zone, staffed by Wailuku fire fighters, where they were checked for any medical needs. According to Windward Aviation pilot Don Shearer, who was flying Air 1, the rescues were “…a wonderfully coordinated group effort.” And despite the extended duration and multiple locations, “…went as trained.”

By 3:32 p.m., all individuals had been successfully lifted to safety, and all fire crews were returning to their respective stations.

Engine 11 from Nāpili, Engine 1 from Wailuku, Hazmat 10, Rescue 10 and a Battalion Chief from Kahului, as well as the MFD Air 1 helicopter responded to these incidents.

The fire department would like to remind everyone that weather conditions can vary wildly from one area to another, and conditions, especially in the mountains can change with little to no notice. It does not need to be raining in the area that you are in for stream levels to rise and/or flash flooding to occur. Let others know where you are going and when you plan to return. Carry adequate supplies in case you are unable to exit areas and need to stay put. If you run into trouble, do not hesitate to call or text 911.

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