Maui volunteers rescue missing Kauai child as hurricane neared

Local News

KAHAKULOA, Hawaii (KHON2) — As Hurricane Douglas was barreling toward Maui, people of all ages fanned out to find a missing child visiting from Kauai, and they made a daring rescue from a dangerous valley cliff.

The Kauai boy, Kadyn Silva, was visiting Maui with his father when he wandered off into unfamiliar territory. His mother on Kauai put out a desperate call for help, and a Maui community dropped everything ahead of a storm to find the child.

With her son on a trip to the Valley Isle with his dad, mom Klarisse Nobriga on Kauai calls him daily, including right before bedtime. Saturday night, there was no answer.

“I though maybe he’s sleeping, I just should go to bed,” she recalls. “I should just leave him alone and they’ll call me at 6 in the morning or something, and everything will be fine again.”

But the call she got back made her heart sink.

“He was with the dad at a house that was a family friend’s,” Nobriga said. “They were just hanging out there, and the father I guess turned around to grab something or hand something to somebody, and when he turned back Kadyn was gone.”

Gone in a lush and remote area of Kahakuloa, West Maui.

“When I got that call my whole world turned upside down,” Nobriga said. “I couldn’t go to a plane. I couldn’t do anything. All I could do was wait for the calls.”

She couldn’t up-and-go look because flights had been canceled for the approaching hurricane.

“So I frantically went online, posted to all my Maui friends,” she said, “asked anyone I knew up there to help me find him.”

And help they did one by one, family by family, building a bridge between Kauai and Maui that defies engineering.

“For me, when I noticed the mom was from Kauai and she was from the same area where I grew up,” explained Waihee resident Christy Kajiwara Gusman, “I knew there was going to be a connection.”

Within an hour of daylight, nearly 80 people — strangers on another island — dropped everything to find Kadyn. Among them was teenager Justin Gusman of Waihee.

“My brother woke me up probably 4:45, 5 o’clock, and he told me my mom said we need to go help find a missing boy,” Justin Gusman said. “I was confused at first and then she showed me the picture and my brother told me he was autistic, and then I was like, oh shucks OK we really need to go. The thought that was going through my head, me and my mom was both really determined to find the boy before the hurricane hit.”

“To hear that all these families, they went out, they stopped what they were doing and they went out there and looked for him,” Nobriga said. “Even though they should have been preparing to secure their housing and everything, they went out there. It was a very heartfelt thing. A lot of them told me that they thought of it as if it was their own child, their grandchild, their niece or their nephew out there.”

“In my mindset I kind of made myself think, what would I do if it was my own child?” said Justin Gusman, just 15 years old.

Kadyn has autism and rarely speaks, but he isn’t scared to wander.

“All I could think of was like something really bad happened, because the one time I drove around that area when we lived in Maui, I know it was dangerous,” Nobriga said. “So I was thinking, oh my gosh, Kadyn must have gone off the cliff, and if he sees that water he’s going to go for it. Kadyn is not scared of anything. He’s a climber. He’s like any typical boy. They fear no danger.”

The search party reached out for help and clues specific to a child with autism.

“There was a lady there who was in contact with a child specialist,” said Christy Kajiwara Gusman. “They also told us these children, I guess there’s been studies where they normally travel downhill, they travel toward the sound of water, so there was a lot of key things they were telling us and that we could relay to the team that was searching.”

Kadyn will cry or scream if in danger, and thankfully on Sunday, he did.

“Somebody had originally said ‘they found the boy, they found the boy,’ and then so everybody took off in that direction,” said Christy Kajiwara Gusman. “They came back and they said they didn’t get him, they just hear him, and so I called Justin and he said, ‘Mom I know where he is, we’re just trying to find a way to get there.’”

Kadyn had wandered more than half a mile from the home toward 10 Mile Beach and down a precarious mountainside. Following the sound of Kadyn’s cries, Justin and his search partner faced an uphill and downhill battle.

“We got to the bottom of the valley that he was in, and me and (the search partner) walked up a little bit and said there’s no way we’re doing this from the bottom. We have to find the valley from the top,” Justin Gusman said. “We started working our way down. Probably 15 to 20 minutes into walking we could hear his cry getting louder, we were getting closer, and where he was there was a 10- to 15-foot drop.”

They tied a rope to a sturdy tree and rappelled down, then had to carefully approach a young boy who doesn’t talk to anyone unless he knows them well.

“Me and (search partner) Brandon were kind of just sweet talking to him, telling him that we were here, we’re here to save you,” Justin Gusman said, “and then as soon as we got close enough to reach him we just grabbed him and held him.”

With the boy secure in safe arms, they next had to figure out how to get back out.

“We went back up the rope,” Justin Gusman said. “We tied him off, we got him up above the cliff.”

From there the searchers up above cradled Kadyn out of the forest and into a waiting ambulance.

“No major injuries just a few scratches here and there,” Nobriga said. “I call him my miracle child. All these miracles is happening. It’s the best thing to hear, the hurricane missed us, Kadyn is safe, it’s all that matters right now.”

Nobriga shared a message of thanks for all the Good Samaritans on Maui: “I would like to thank everyone who went out there and helped to search for Kadyn. Thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. I wish I could meet all of you guys and thank you personally, but until then, I just have to say it on here: I love you guys all for doing this.”

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