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Hiker fell to his death at Olomana Trail while trying to help friend

HONOLULU (KHON2) - A 24-year-old man fell hundreds of feet to his death at Olomana Trail Sunday.

Firefighters had to comb through the trees for about two hours to find him.

"Where he was found, it was a heavy canopy, meaning it was an area where there are lots of trees, and it was a pretty steep fall that he suffered," Battalion Chief Damien Kahaulelio explained. "Air One conducted an aerial search and we inserted a rescue person who found the patient unconscious, not breathing, and no pulse."

The Honolulu medical examiner identified him as Nathan Stowell, and said he died from multiple injuries to his head and torso. His manner of death has been classified as an accident.

Friends and family say Stowell loved life and lived it to the fullest.

"A true leader with nothing but ambition, heart, drive, and desire," said friend and mentor James Keener. "He was a bright spot in everybody's day. He's a super bright kid."

Stowell left Arizona at age 18 for the love of Hawaii's outdoor adventures, culture, and people.

"It's a shame this had to take place, but he loved the outdoors. He loved hiking. He had a bucket list set up with all these different trails," said Keener.  

Keener says Stowell worked for him at a couple of his family-owned businesses. One of them was at Handy Andy Hawaii, which offers jobs to veterans. 

"He was really inspired about helping build this business for veterans to work. Both my boys he considered brothers are veterans. Nathan couldn't serve in the military because he had asthma, so he really wanted to give back and this is the way he felt he could give back," he said.  

Loved ones say Stowell has always put others before himself, which was a characteristic that was followed by tragedy on Olomana. 

"Kid's hat blew off and he told the kid, 'Don't get the hat. Let me get it,' because Nathan felt he had better balance, and he fell 400 feet to his death," said Keener. "He's just an absolute amazing human being. We are just blessed to have him in our lives as long as we had him."

Keener says Stowell's family is planning to come to Hawaii and have a memorial ceremony at one of his favorite places on the island. A GoFundMe account has also been organized.

Olomana Trail in Kailua is one of Oahu's toughest hikes.

It's known for its three peaks and it progressively gets harder to climb to the next.

"Going to the third peak, there's a section as you're going to the second and third where it's narrow, but then there are ropes there you can hang on to," said hiker Dale Yoshizu. 

It was at the third peak where firefighters say Stowell fell about 400 feet near the base of the mountain.

Hikers who came down Olomana said the trail was muddy from all the rain over the weekend.

Despite the weather, the trail was busy on Easter Sunday with about 50 or more people climbing to the peaks. 

Even the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club took a field trip with about a dozen members. Many of these hikers felt a little uneasy at the sight of Air One. 

"By the time I got up there, there was a helicopter looking for the guy already," said hiker Kyle Chang, who climbed Olomana for the first time Sunday. 

"She said 'Dale, somebody fell from the third peak and their friend was calling to the person to see how the person was and I'm not sure if that person answered,'" Yoshizu said. 

Over the past seven years there have been at least three hiker deaths along Olomana Trail.

"You know definitely you got to go at your own risk," Chang said. 

"It makes you more aware. Of course it's a little scary. That's a hike I've done a lot of times, but it makes you aware that no matter how many times you've done the hike, you need to be careful," Yoshizu said.


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