California visitor dies at Waianapanapa Freshwater Caves in Hana

Local News

The visitor whose body was recovered at the Waianapanapa Freshwater Caves in Hana Sunday afternoon has been identified.

He was Gregory Wilhelm, 33, of Novato, CA.

Two males and two females — Wilhelm and three friends from Maui — were swimming outside the freshwater caves before the two males decided to go exploring inside. They used a flashlight app from a cellphone sealed in a plastic bag to see inside the pitch-dark cavern. When Wilhelm did not exit the cave, the other male went back inside and found the cellphone, but could not locate his friend. He exited the cave and called for help.

The Hana fire crew met with the group at 1:04 p.m. and they could see Wilhelm submerged underwater deeper within the cave system.

A rescue crew from Kahului arrived with the department’s Air 1 helicopter to assist in the rescue, but after learning of the recovery operation, did not have the full capability to make an underwater body recovery into the cave system.

Air 1 flew back to Kahului to retrieve additional equipment and personnel necessary to make a safe entry into the confined overhead environment where Wilhelm was located, 75 feet in from the cave entrance.

He was brought out by the dive rescue team at 5:04 p.m.

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