Good Samaritan recounts waterfall accident, officials say ‘There’s rocks falling up there all the time’

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Falling rocks near a popular hiking trail sent two men to the hospital on Thursday, April 29, in Nuuanu.

A woman who was there says it all happened so fast.

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Dozens — if not hundreds — of people hike to Lulumahu Falls every day. Most come and go without incident, but the danger of hiking in the Nuuanu-Pali area is very real.

What was meant to be a beautiful hike to picturesque Lulumahu Falls ended tragically for a pair of hikers Thursday; Both men were injured by falling rocks.

Sarah Magdaleno and a friend had been at the falls for two hours and were about to leave when the two men arrived.

“We, in passing, greeted them told them, ‘Hope you have a wonderful day,'” Magdaleno said.

The men took the spot she had been sitting in, near the right side of the falls.

“About 15 seconds later, we heard giant rocks falling, snapping trees from the top and tumble straight down,” she explained. “We heard the rocks hit them and then fall in the water. And we could hear him screaming immediately as the rocks fell.”

She said one of the men was yelling as he tried to get his friend to move.

“His friend was completely paralyzed,” she explained. “We were able to move him and moving him in the water was easiest because he was so severely injured. And we got him to a safer spot to where there was trees and a little bit of more protection.”

That is when she called 911.

“He was conscious and awake the whole time. He was able to move his fingers and his toes,” Magdaleno added. “But we knew that there was some major injuries to his thighs, femur and possibly his ribs cause he was complaining about having trouble breathing.”

According to Emergency Medical Services, the 25-year-old male was in critical condition after suffering from multiple traumatic injuries, his 27-year-old friend was in serious condition with a serious foot injury.

Emergency responders airlifted both men out and rushed them to the hospital.

According to DLNR Division of Forestry & Wildlife Administrator David Smith, a permit is required to hike through the closed watershed area to Lulumahu Falls. Smith did not know if the men had a permit.

“It’s a restricted watershed, you do need a permit,” Smith explained. “Whether these young gentlemen that got hurt, had permits, I don’t know, it’s kind of irrelevant to me at this point, because it’s not why they got hurt — whether they had a permit or not. The reason they got hurt is just kind of a fluke and being in a relatively dangerous area. So I’m not sure if they had permits or not, that’s not our focus at the moment.”

Smith says the trail and waterfall areas are not maintained and rocks fall there all the time.

“That’s the kind of thing you need to be aware of,” Smith explained. “In the backcountry, if you’re seeing signs of fresh rocks coming down, you really need to think about where you’re at and how much time you want to spend in that area.”

He says people need to be aware of the inherent dangers of hiking.

“Do we want to close all our trails in the forest?” he asked. “I’d rather just let people take the risks that they feel comfortable with. I just want to make sure that they’re taking calculated and educated risks. I don’t want to just close all the backcountry because it’s dangerous.”

Smith says people need to know their skill level and should always take safety precautions when hiking.

DLNR safety brochures advise hikers to:

  • Let others know which trail you plan to hike.
  • Never hike alone.
  • Get information about the trail.
  • Assess your capabilities.
  • Check weather conditions.
  • Wear proper clothing.
  • Bring water and a day pack with necessities, including a cell phone.

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