Lost Chinese Hiker in Volcanoes National Park Found This Morning

Park rangers and a helicopter pilot rescued a 76-year-old man early Friday morning who got lost near Pu‘u Huluhulu in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park the previous day.

Hiker

Pu’u Huluhulu

Zigui Yuan, 76, of China, spent an uncomfortable and chilly night on an old lava field after getting lost near Pu‘u Huluhulu cinder cone, where there is little or no cell phone reception.

His wife, Paulili Yuan, reported him missing yesterday at 8 p.m. She told rangers that the couple and a female friend had been hiking together Thursday morning, when Mr. Yuan separated from the group at the Pu‘u Huluhulu trailhead, and headed east towards Nāpau Crater. The two women returned to the trailhead junction at the Mauna Ulu parking lot at 11:30 a.m. and waited for the man.

At approximately 7 p.m., Mr. Yuan attempted to contact his wife by phone, but the call failed. The women then drove to Thurston Lava Tube and reported him missing to Park Ranger John Moraes.

Rangers Moraes and John Broward executed a search in the vicinity of Pu‘u Huluhulu in the dark, using powerful handheld spotlights to illuminate the rough lava landscape, while Ranger Andrew Sanford patrolled Chain of Craters Road for the missing man. At 1 a.m., the search was suspended until daybreak.

A ground and air search was launched at daybreak. Helicopter pilot David Okita spotted Yuan approximately 660 feet (200 meters) southwest of Pu‘u Huluhulu. Okita and Park Ranger Jon Maka‘ike landed, and retrieved Yuan. He was cold, dehydrated, and exhausted, but had no major injuries, and declined further medical treatment. Yuan was reunited with his wife at 6:30 a.m. today.

Pu'u Huluhulu vicinity

Pu’u Huluhulu vicinity

Yuan, who speaks very little English, told rangers through his wife that he kept hiking across the sharp, jagged lava until it became dark and he could no longer see the rock pile trail markers. He took shelter against the wind in a small depression in the old lava flows, and waited for daylight.

“Mr. Yuan made the right decision to hunker down for the night,” said Ranger John Broward, Search and Rescue (SAR) coordinator at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. “This area is riddled with unstable ground, hidden earth cracks, deep craters, and sharp and brittle lava. He could have been seriously injured if he continued trying to find his way out in the dark,” he said.

Park rangers remind visitors that the best way to avoid potentially serious incidents is to plan ahead and prepare. A full range of hiking tips and other safety-related information is available on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/havo, and by asking park rangers.

This was the park’s 14th SAR incident this year. There were 26 SAR incidents in 2012.

 

Man Survives 115 Foot Fall Down Cliff in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Park rangers on Tuesday rescued a man who had been stranded overnight after climbing over a barrier and falling 115 feet down a sheer cliff behind Volcano House in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

Search and Rescue Ranger John Broward stands at the location behind Volcano House where the man fell 115 feet onto Halemaumau Trail below.

Search and Rescue Ranger John Broward stands at the location behind Volcano House where the man fell 115 feet onto Halemaumau Trail below.

At approximately 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, a hiker told park rangers at Kīlauea Visitor Center that she heard someone crying for help from the dense vegetation along Halema‘uma‘u Trail, which lies directly below the hotel. Although she thought it was a prank, she reported the cries anyway.

Rangers were able to locate the man, and the park’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordinator John Broward was lowered by helicopter and pulled him to safety as the sun began to set. The man was identified as 73-year-old Harry Osachy of Kurtistown.  Osachy is Micronesian and speaks little English, but told rescuers that he had fallen on Monday. The exact time is unknown.

Search and Rescue was able to get him out

Search and Rescue was able to get him out

Osachy was transported by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center, with injuries to his pelvis and shoulder. He had numerous scrapes and suffered from dehydration.

“Luckily, he landed in a dense thicket of native ‘uluhe fern, which broke his fall,” Broward said.

It is the thirteenth SAR mission at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park this year. Last year, park SAR crews responded to a total of 26 incidents.

“Once again, risky behavior by a visitor endangered the lives of our staff,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando, who was on site during the dramatic rescue. “We were able to execute an exemplary response from our cadre of specially trained first responders, and thankfully no one else was injured,” she said.

 

Park Rangers Rescue Endangered Plants

It’s not always lost or injured hikers who get rescued by park rangers.

Image shows the pit cater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where the endangered plant search and rescue mission occurred June 26, 2013. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser

Image shows the pit cater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where the endangered plant search and rescue mission occurred June 26, 2013. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser

Rangers from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park rappelled nearly 200 feet into a remote pit crater last week to “rescue” seeds and cuttings from four extremely rare Hawaiian plants in the national park. The park will use the seeds and cuttings to help reestablish these species.

During the mission, seeds and cuttings from hāhā (Cyanea stictophylla), a federally endangered shrub found only on Hawai‘i Island, were carefully collected. This stunning plant is extremely rare, and in 1996, only 20 plants were estimated to survive in the wild.

NPS Photo/Jon Maka'ike

NPS Photo/Jon Maka’ike

Seeds and cuttings from other rare species collected included a species related to hāhā, Cyanea pilosa, an odorless Hawaiian mint (Phyllostegia sp.), and a native shrub in the African violet family, ha‘iwale (Cyrtandra lysiosepala).

Although a 4,000-foot elevation and the steep, sheer walls of the forested pit crater aid in protecting its ecology, those conditions make it challenging to retrieve cuttings and seeds. Two specialized teams from the national park, the Natural Resources Management rappel team and the Search and Rescue team, descended into the crater, retrieved the seeds and cuttings, and returned safely to the surface – a 12-hour mission.

Plants shown is closeup of Cyanea stictophylla flowering. This individual was collected from the Pit Crater a few years ago, and has been growing in a park greenhouse since. It flowered and fruited this year. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser

Plants shown is closeup of Cyanea stictophylla flowering. This individual was collected from the Pit Crater a few years ago, and has been growing in a park greenhouse since. It flowered and fruited this year. NPS Photo/Mark Wasser

Joining rangers were members of Hawai‘i County Fire Department and Pōhakuloa Training Area’s fire management team. This enabled the project ample contingency resources in the event of an incident, and fosters interagency cooperation that will be seeds in themselves for future mutual assistance.

15-Year-Old California Boy Lucky to Be Alive After Falling Into Steaming Earth Crack at Volcanoes National Park

A 15-year-old San Rafael, CA boy who fell 25 feet into a steaming earth crack at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Wednesday night was pulled to safety by Park Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel.

Steam vent near Volcano House where the California boy fell. A nearby sign reads: Rain water encounters hot rock as it seeps into the ground, and rises as vapor through a system of cracks to condense in the chilled air. Vapor temperature four feet down is 160 degrees F, cooling to 120 degree F at the surface. NPS Photo.

Steam vent near Volcano House where the California boy fell. A nearby sign reads: Rain water encounters hot rock as it seeps into the ground, and rises as vapor through a system of cracks to condense in the chilled air. Vapor temperature four feet down is 160 degrees F, cooling to 120 degree F at the surface. NPS Photo.

The Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park SAR team, and County of Hawai‘i Fire crews based in the park, responded to a 911 call from the victim’s mother at approximately 6:43 p.m. It was reported that the youth had attempted to leap over the protective railing surrounding a steam vent between Kīlauea Visitor Center and Volcano House.

Park SAR Coordinator John Broward, assisted by County Fire, rappelled into the deep, narrow, chimney-like crack and rescued the boy, who suffered a bump on his head and minor abrasions. His family declined further medical treatment, and he was released at the scene following assessment by County of Hawai‘i responders.

“This young visitor and his family are extraordinarily lucky that he survived this mishap,” Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said. “This incident serves as a reminder that park visitors are urged to stay on trails and not engage in reckless behavior while visiting their national parks.”

Rescues like this also put park staff and other first responders at risk, Orlando noted.

This is the seventh SAR mission conducted by park staff so far this year. Last year, park SAR crews responded to a total of 26 incidents.

Hawaii Coast Guard Looking for Source of False Distress Signals

The Coast Guard is asking the public’s help Friday, in locating the source of recent false distress calls which have been occurring mainly on the east end of Oahu.

Click here for false mayday audio download.

The most recent call occurred Tuesday, and was received at approximately 4 p.m. by Coast Guard watchstanders in the Sector Honolulu Command Center. The call was a child’s voice saying, “Hello, hello, hello, hello. Mayday, mayday.”

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Thiessen gets lifted into the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter after a search and rescue demonstration for National Safe Boating Week in Honolulu Harbor, May 20, 2011. In support of National Safe Boating Week a press briefing was held at Station Honolulu where local agencies joined the Coast Guard to promote the kickoff.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Angela Henderson

The voice sounded very similar, if not identical, to the voice heard on other recent radio calls that were eventually suspended as probable hoaxes after no source of distress could be located.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Oahu, was launched to investigate Tuesday’s call. No indications of distress were located during the search. One vessel was located in the vicinity, but did not corroborate any mayday calls or signs of distress. The search was suspended at approximately 7:10 p.m., Tuesday.

“This may not occur to the hoax caller, but people could die as a result of prank calls,” said Commander Steve Wheeler, Sector Honolulu’s Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator. “Every call received by the Coast Guard is treated as an actual distress case. So while our boats and aircraft are out searching in response to these types of fake calls, another mariner, who truly is in distress, may not get the timely assistance they require.”

Knowingly communicating a false distress or causing the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed is a felony.  The penalties include prison time, criminal fines, civil fines and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the ample costs incurred in responding to the false call.

Mariners are encouraged to take steps to prevent the occurrence of fraudulent calls by removing radios or locking them up when not in use, teaching children appropriate use, and reporting suspected hoax callers to the Coast Guard tip line at 1-800-264-5980.

For more information contact the 14th Coast Guard District Public Affairs Office at 808-535-3230.