UPDATE: HFD Rescues Injured Man 12,500 Feet Up Maunakea

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UPDATE: June 11, 2019, 3:45 PM

Working tirelessly into the middle of the dark and cold night early Tuesday morning, June 11, 2019, Fire and Rescue teams from the Pohakuloa Training Area, along with the Hawai‘i County Fire Department and Mauna Kea summit Rangers, rescued an injured hiker in a remote area more than 12,000 feet above sea level high atop Maunakea, according to a press release from the Pōhakuloa Training Area public affairs officer.

The initial report came into 911 at approximately 8 p.m. Monday evening, that a 68-year-old male located at the summit of Maunakea had injured his leg while trying to find his way back to the observatories and needed assistance.

PTA Fire and Rescue were dispatched immediately to locate the injured hiker and perform initial life-saving measures while coordinating with HFD and summit Rangers to pinpoint the exact location of the injured man, who is visiting from Arizona.

“This was particularly more difficult and time consuming because the injured hiker was almost at the peak of the mountain, and his exact location was unknown,” said PTA Fire Chief Eric Moller, “so when we have these situations, we have to leverage cell phone towers and triangulate where the signal is coming from and then get our Fire Rescue Team on the ground to actually find the patient in the dark of the night at 12,500 feet above sea level.”

The combined team of seven PTA firefighters , two Maunakea Rangers and four HFD personnel located the injured man at approximately 10 p.m. and applied a splint to the injured leg, stabilized the patient and placed him in a rigid stokes litter, which was then carried nearly 2 miles in rough terrain to an awaiting ambulance (Hawai‘i County, Medic-3) . The patient was taken in guarded condition to Hilo Medical Center.


The visitor went to the summit, hiking with his spouse and grandson, who were waiting at the visitor’s center. Losing his bearings and footing, he slipped and fell,injuring his leg, possibly breaking a bone. He crawled to a spot where he could get a good cell signal. Once a good connection was made, rescue teams advised him to “stay put” in order to pinpoint his location.

“This truly is one of the best examples I have seen in a long time as a firefighter of how PTA, HFD and summit Rangers work together as a team in very difficult conditions,” said Moller, “and when you are at this elevation in the dark of night, it truly takes a team effort, so mahalo to all agencies.”

PTA Fire and Rescue are the initial dispatched first responders, to all 911 calls along Highway 200 (Daniel K. Inouye Highway) from Highway 190 to Mile Marker 17 on the Hilo side, and responsible to calls involving Maunakea and Mauna Loa areas. PTA Fire and Rescue work closely with HFD and County ambulance crews to transfer patients to the nearest trauma locations.

All fire and rescue officials on Hawai‘i Island highly encourage hikers and visitors these area to remain on established trails and paths to avoid possible injuries or becoming lost. In addition, personal cell phones are very helpful in cases where emergency services are needed, particularly in locating a potential patient.

For more information, contact PTA Public Affairs Officer Mike Donnelly at (808) 969-2411 or [email protected].


ORIGINAL POST: June 11, 2019, 8:43 AM

The Hawai‘i Fire Department received a call at 7:31 p.m. about a man who was injured as he reportedly tumbled trying to take a photograph on the Maunakea Summit below Keck Observatory on Monday, June 10, 2019.

The trailhead to the patient was at the 13,200-foot elevation below Keck Observatory.

It took responding units 30 minute to hike the 1 mile from the trail head to the patient’s location.

There was no marked trail beyond the trailhead and the terrain was uneven and dangerous.


First responders arrived at 9:45 p.m. to find a man in his 60s with an apparent femur fracture. He was located approximately 1 mile from the nearest trail at the 12,500 foot elevation. The air temperature was in the 30s.

Upon locating and “packaging” the patient, six rescue personnel at a time carried the patient in a “skeds.”

Personnel were rotated as needed. Due to the lack of oxygen, personnel could only carry the patient for approximately 10 feet at a time before stopping to catch their breath.

It took approximately 3.5 hours to navigate the 1 mile distance and 700-foot elevation gain while carrying the patient. Rescuers worked tirelessly despite the cold temperatures and altitude sickness.


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